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On eve of trial, magazine chronicles Puckett's 'secret life'
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Kirby Puckett is shown leaving the courthouse after a pre-trial hearing in February on his sexual assault case. (MPR Photo/Elizabeth Stawicki)

Minneapolis, Minn. — According to an article in this week's Sports Illustrated, former Minnesota Twins star Kirby Puckett became more abusive and began committing lewd acts in public following his forced retirement because of glaucoma in his right eye in 1996. The magazine cited an alleged former mistress for much of its investigation, which included allegations of conduct such as urinating in mall parking lots.

Puckett is currently charged with grabbing a woman and dragging her into the men's bathroom of an Eden Prairie restaurant last September. The woman said Puckett tried pushing her into a stall, reached around her and grabbed her breasts.

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In a related action on Wednesday, Hennepin County Judge Stephen Swanson said he would allow testimony in the case that Puckett's accuser exposed her breasts before the alleged assault,but Swanson said he would not allow testimony that the woman was drunk. According to the magazine's investigation, Puckett has a history of alleged sexual misconduct. It said that shortly before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in January 2001, a female Minnesota Twins' employee threatened to file a sexual harassment suit against the former star. The magazine says the Twins and the woman settled out of court so that Puckett's chances of being voted into the Hall of Fame would not be tarnished. The Twins did not comment for the article.

In December, Puckett's ex-wife, Tonya, divorced him. She told Sports Illustrated that Puckett tried to strangle her with an electrical cord, locked her in the basement, and used a power saw to cut through the door after she had locked herself in a room. She said Puckett also put a loaded gun to her head while she was holding her daughter.

The magazine's revelations further tarnish Puckett's "good guy" image in Minnesota. A woman who describes herself as "a mistress of many years," called the image "a sham."

Laura Nygren says on one occasion she complimented him on a scheduled visit to sick child in the hospital when he allegedly told her, "I don't give a sh**. It's just another kid who's sick."

"He alays said how much he hated going to the hospital," Nygren says. "He became more [vocal] about how much he hated it after he retired, but he always said he hated it."

Her relationship with the ex-ballplayer ended last March after Nygren and Puckett's wife, Tonya, talked to each other. He allegedly threatened her and she obtained a temporary order of protection. "If I find out that it was you who sold me out, you're in trouble, girl," Puckett is alleged to have said to Nygren.

Nygren says Puckett became more of a "thrill-seeker," after his forced retirement. According to the report, he would ask her to have sex with himin public places and in his offices at the Twins' headquarters.

As for the reaction of Minnesota fans: "I think they feel a little foolish," said co-author Frank Deford to the Web site "That's a big theme of this story -- the fans were taken. They gave their hearts away and it turned out that the man to whom they gave their hearts was not quite so deserving. Even if Puckett is acquitted of the sexual assault charges brought against him, it's still very clear that he's not the person everyone thought he was. But a fascinating aspect of this story reflects on how fans get so carried away with their heroes."

Deford will be in the Twin Cities later this month on a speaking tour.

The reports other author, George Dohrmann, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for exposing academic fraud in the University of Minnesota men's basketball program. He worked for the St. Paul Pioneer Press

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