PUCKETT'S FAREWELL: For a few minutes Saturday night, Kirby Puckett's farewell party threatened to end just like his career: Spoiled too soon by an unexpected complication.

Forced to retire July 12 because of glaucoma that has left him totally blind in his right eye, Puckett was forced into silence for several minutes Saturday when the Metrodome sound system failed.

"That's a sign right there," Puckett said when the sound came back. "I just want to say, `What happened?' "

His premature departure this summer left all of baseball asking the same question.

Puckett was among the game's brightest stars throughout his 12-year career, and is the most beloved sports figure in Minnesota history - maybe even the state's most cherished hero in any realm.

His retirement left a void for a team, a state and a game that adore him, but it cannot erase the memories he created, many of which were relived Saturday night.

There was far more celebration than sorrow during the ceremony, which preceded the Twins' game against California and drew a sellout crowd of 51,011, the largest since the 1993 season opener. Puckett even reprised Lou Gehrig's famous farewell speech.

"I think I thought I heard him say he was the luckiest man in the world," Puckett said from a podium just in front of second base. "I'm here to tell Lou Gehrig, the Iron Horse, that tonight Kirby Puckett is the luckiest man in the world."

AGUILERA INJURED: Minnesota Twins pitcher Rick Aguilera left Saturday night's game against the California Angels with an injury to his left hamstring.

Aguilera immediately grabbed his hamstring after delivering a 1-1 pitch to Randy Velarde leading off the fifth inning. Trainer Dick Martin went to the mound, and after a brief conversation Aguilera shook his head and walked to the dugout.

2 INJURED AT STADIUM: Los Angeles third baseman Tim Wallach's son and a man seated two rows apart were injured by a television monitor that fell from a broadcast booth behind home plate during the Pittsburgh-Dodgers game Saturday night.

Dodgers vice president Ralph Avila identified the boy as one of Wallach's three sons, but did not say which won. The boy made it to first aid under his own power.

The unidentified man was lifted onto an aisle by other fans before he was carried off on a stretcher. He was conscious when taken out.

GUZMAN UNDERGOES SURGERY: American League ERA leader Juan Guzman had an appendectomy Saturday and the Toronto Blue Jays pitcher probably will miss the rest of the season.

Guzman, who had been scheduled to start for Toronto on Saturday night at Yankee Stadium, experienced abdominal pain in the dugout during Friday night's game and was admitted to Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center - about two miles from the ballpark - at about 1 a.m. Saturday.

Guzman, 29, underwent surgery Saturday afternoon and is expected to be released from the hospital on Sunday or Monday.

Auto racing

MILLER 400: Ernie Irvan added to his remarkable comeback, sneaking inside Johnny Benson on the inside of the first turn with 19 laps to go Saturday night and going on to win the Miller 400 in Richmond, Va.

Irvan, nearly killed in a crash at Michigan in 1994, won for the second time this season. He won the Jiffy Lube 300 at Loudon, N.H., on July 14.

Since he was fifth in the first Miller 400, at Brooklyn, Mich., on June 23, Irvan has finished in the top five eight times in 11 races. His streak includes a second in the prestigious Brickyard 400 on Aug. 3.

Defending Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon was second on the three-quarter-mile oval of Richmond International Raceway, coming up just short in his bid for a sweep of the spring and fall races at the track.

Gordon, who gained the first of his series-best seven victories here in March, was bidding to become only the second driver to sweep Richmond since the track was reconfigured in 1988. Rusty Wallace did it in 1989.

Gordon did pick up 20 points in his attempt to overtake teammate and points leader Terry Labonte for this season's title. He has gained 110 points the past two weeks and trails Labonte by only four points with seven races left.

INDY LIGHTS: Brazil's Tony Kanaan had a record-setting lap of 106.334 mph on the final qualifying run Saturday to take the pole position for Sunday's season-ending PPG-Firestone Indy Lights race in Monterrey, Calif.

Claude Bourbonnais of Canada qualified second for the 76.09-mile race with a fast lap of 106.058 on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road circuit. Jeff Ward of San Juan Capistrano was third at 105.890.


JAZZ PRESEASON: Tickets for a preseason game between the Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers go on sale this month. The game is set for the Dee Events Center on Wednesday, Oct. 23. Game time is 7 p.m.

All WSU men's basketball season ticket holders and Wildcat Club members, can purchase tickets the week of Monday, Sept. 9 through Monday, Sept. 16. tickets for the general public go on sale the 16th.

Prices for tickets are $25, $20, $15 and $9 plus handling. Those wishing to purchase tickets are urged to go in person to the Dee Events Center ticket office (9 a.m to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday), or call (801) 626-8500.


LATIN REGIONAL TOURNEY: A Latin American team from Utah will face a team from Denver today in second regional soccer tournament play.

The game is set for noon at Riverside Park, 600 North, 17th West. The event is promoted by Mexican Communities Abroad.


U.S. SWEEPS JAPAN: Jeff Nygaard and Dan Landry combined for 28 kills Saturday night, leading the United States to a 15-10, 15-13, 15-11 victory over Japan in an exhibition match at the Rosemont Horizon.

Team USA, 26-8 this year, swept a three-match series in Japan last week and also won matches this week in Minneapolis and Milwaukee. The tour continues Wednesday night at Grand Rapids, Mich.