March 28, 1996
The concern over Kirby Puckett in the spring of 1996 was starting to change to optimism. Puckett took a Dennis Martinez pitch to the jaw at the end of the 1995 season, and there was some fear among Twins’ fans that Puckett may never be the same.
Spring training 1996 was a chance for Puckett to show that he was the same hitter he had always been. The spring numbers seemed to foreshadow another great season for Puckett. That all changed one day before the team planned to break camp.
On Thursday morning, March 28, Puckett woke up with a strange spot in the middle of his vision on the right side, and everything seemed just a bit blurry. From Jim Souhan’s story a few days later in the Star Tribune:
Puckett sounded doubtful that he will be able to play on Monday, when the Twins will open the season at the Metrodome against the Detroit Tigers.
“My right eye is my dominant eye,” he said. “If it was my left eye, then I think I’d be able to hit. But I need my right eye. I can’t hit right now. I’ll have to wait and see what happens.”
Puckett was placed on the 15-day disabled list, and all indication suggested that he would return when that time was up, April 12. As the date approached, it became more clear that Puckett’s vision problem was not going away as soon as expected.
The saga played out through the first half of the Twins’ 1996 season. Puckett was eventually diagnosed with glaucoma, and the severity was such that he ultimately retired from baseball in July.
Souhan, Jim. “Vision problems might keep Puckett from Twins’ opener” Star Tribune 3/29/1996.