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Why is it so hard to find new Kirby Puckett stuff?

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Many Twins fans have noticed how hard it is to find new Kirby Puckett jerseys or other memorabilia for sale—and there’s a reason for that.

My Kirby Puckett jersey, which I’m showing you the back of because it’s, uh, “game worn”.
Maija Varda

Awhile back I asked the people of Twinkie Town about their jersey/shirsey collections and opinions, and there was a curious topic several people brought up. In fact, one user, Gkhize, made their first and only post or comment on this website just to ask about it:

The question that prompted my reply is "what shirseys do you want" I want a Puckett one but the Twins carry absolutely nothing Puckett related. Does anybody know why?

If you live in Minnesota, and especially if you frequent Target Field or the team store, just think about it. Kirby Puckett is one of, if not the, most popular Twins players of all time—but how often do you see his shirseys/jerseys, especially for sale? A lot less often than you’d think.

In fact, if you go to the team store, you won’t see them at all. You’ll see jerseys for Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, and Harmon Killebrew—but none for Puckett.

I decided to look into this further. A good ol’ google search brings back a post on Crackin’ Wax, a blog about collecting baseball cards and memorabilia, with one plausible explanation. After years of searching in vein for a Puckett jersey, the author came to this conclusion:

Ever the investigator, [my wife] found it very strange that a player like Kirby would not have an entire section of items to himself in a Twins official Pro Shop. She asked the store manager why we haven’t been able to find any Puckett materials, even in officially licensed stores. The answer, it seems, is highly unfortunate. Evidently, when Puck passed away, so too did all of his licensing rights. Sadly, and perhaps expounded by his sudden death, Kirby’s likeness rights were assigned solely to him and were never willed or passed onto his family or estate–according to the Pro Shop store manager, at least. He explained to my wife that the reason we are able to find only a couple of Kirby Puckett items by Nike is because they were either produced before his death and are nearly sold out, or they were produced afterwards and were pulled.

While that seems weird, it would explain why it’s so hard to find Kirby Puckett merchandise. The author even laments about he rarely ever sees new Kirby Puckett baseball cards.

I couldn’t find anything else on the internet to confirm this explanation, however, so I did the next best thing: I contacted the Twins and asked them where da heck all the Kirby stuff at?!?

It took awhile to get a response, but I did finally get one from Clyde Doepner, the full-time team curator for the Twins.

“I didn’t know the answer, so I researched it,” Doepner said. “Evidently, the only people who can sell Kirby Puckett merchandise is Mitchell and Ness, the people that do authentic, older jerseys.” Doepner explained that the official Twins store doesn’t sell Kirby Puckett merchandise because of the cost Mitchell and Ness has upfront. “There is some sort of contract, as you inferred, between the people holding the likeness to Kirby and the company that signed the contract.”

Sure enough, a search of the Twins online team team store for “Kirby Puckett” brings back only three results:

A Kirby Puckett jersey by Mitchell and Ness, a baseball card produced before Kirby’s death, and a painting of Kirby, which presumably has special protection as a unique and creative work of art.

While Doepner helped explained the dearth of Kirby Puckett merchandise at the team store, he didn’t know who the people who own Kirby’s likeness actually are, or if the agreement with Mitchell and Ness was somehow written in a way that gives them exclusive rights to Kirby’s likeness into eternity.

Hence, I e-mailed Mitchell and Ness asking if they had more information. Though an e-commerce representative responded promptly, he didn’t really answer the question, stating only the following:

We offered a Kirby Puckett 1984 powder blue Twins jersey in our Spring 2017 jersey catalog but there was not enough units booked in order to get it made, so we had to drop it. Once we have enough demand we’d love to see that jersey get made again.

Smells like a letter writing campaign (or a bad marketing department).

You might be thinking, “Why can’t I just get a personalized Twins jersey and request the name ‘Puckett’ with the number 34?” That seems like a good option, but according to fans on our Facebook page, the Twins will not make them.

So, yeah.

Have any of you heard another explanation for the lack of Kirby Puckett merchandise? Do you own a Kirby Puckett jersey, and if so, where and when did you get it? Seen anything for sale recently?

Discuss.

P.S. Happy Birthday, Kirby.