HHOF: Duane Kuiper
My Happiness Hall of Fame has to start here ...
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Duane Kuiper would dive for everything. It was his nature. "Old two-steps-and-a-dive Kuiper," his contemporary second baseman Frank White says, and it's good to hear him say it that way, because that's how I remember Kuip, in full-dive, parallel to the ground, bursting with hope that he would have some sort of mid-air collision with the baseball.
Wow, I loved to dive after ground balls. It was my favorite thing in baseball. No, it was more than that -- it was my favorite thing in the world. I played second base, just like Kuip, and when a ground ball was hit my way, I would make the immediate calculation: Can I dive for that? Almost always the answer was: No. It was too close. Or it was too far.
But now and again, when the geometry lined up just so, I would run to a spot and throw myself at the ball, and sometimes -- oh, those glorious few sometimes -- I would feel the ball thunk into my glove, and I would feel ecstatic. Then I would scramble to my feet and make the short throw. Now and then, I even got the out.
Well, I probably got three outs that way my entire career.
After each one, I would say (out loud or to myself): "Duane Kuiper!"
Everyone who cares knows how much I love the guy. I have a Kuiper bobblehead right next to me as I write these words. It's of Kuip swinging the bat, because he was most famous as a player for hitting one home run in his entire career. That's cool, and I love this bobblehead deeply The only way I could love it more is if Kuip were floating sideways, dirt on his red jersey, stretching out with his glove and flashing pure joy on his face.