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Chuck Knoblauch

Chuck Knoblauch

Position(s):
2B, SS, DH, CF, OF, LF
Born:
July 7, 1968
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
5' 9"
Weight:
175 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-09-1991 with MIN
Allstar Selections:
1991 ROOK, 1995 SS, 1997 GG, 1997 SS

He played all or part of twelve seasons in the majors, from 1991 until 2002, for the Minnesota Twins (1991–97), New York Yankees (1998–2001) and Kansas City Royals (2002). He played mostly as a second baseman before moving to left field for his last two seasons.

Contents

College years

Knoblauch was drafted in the 1st round of the 1986 amateur draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, but did not sign. He went on to play college baseball for Texas A&M University in College Station where he was selected as a second team All-American.

Major league career

Minnesota Twins

Knoblauch won the American League Rookie of the Year award and a World Series ring as a member of the 1991 Minnesota Twins. In Game 7 of the World Series, Knoblauch deceived Lonnie Smith by appearing to take the throw from the outfield on a Terry Pendleton double (causing Smith to get only to 3rd base when he might have scored for the Atlanta Braves) even though Smith later claimed that he lost track of the ball.

During the 1994–96 seasons, Knoblauch batted .312, .333, and .341, won the AL Gold Glove Award at second base in 1997, and became renowned for his speed—stealing over 40 bases in three consecutive seasons. After the 1997 season, Knoblauch was traded to the Yankees in exchange for four players (including two future All-Stars, Eric Milton and Cristian Guzman) and $3 million. Once a popular player in Minnesota, his very outspoken request to be traded away from the Twins ensured he would be roundly jeered on every successive trip to the Metrodome. This included throwing hot dogs, beer bottles, and golf balls at Knoblauch during a visit to the Metrodome in 2001.

New York Yankees

Knoblauch's arrival in New York was greeted with wide anticipation. Buster Olney, then with the New York Times and now one of ESPN's premier baseball analysts, predicted that Knoblauch and Derek Jeter would form the greatest double play combination in history. Though he struggled early on with the team, he hit a career-high 17 home runs as the Yankees won a then-American League record 114 games. In the postseason against the Cleveland Indians, Knoblauch committed a serious blunder, arguing with an umpire as play continued. Instead of chasing down the ball that was in play, Knoblauch argued with the umpire as Enrique Wilson scored from first base, giving Cleveland a 2-1 lead in the 12th inning. The Indians would go on to win the game 4-1. A New York newspaper called him "Blauch-head." However, Knoblauch recovered and was an important factor in the World Series victory over the San Diego Padres, and the 1999 win over the Atlanta Braves. In Game 3 of the 1999 series, Knoblauch scored the game's first run, and also hit a dramatic two-run home run in the eighth inning to tie the score, with the Yankees eventually winning in the 10th. In the 2001 World Series, Game 5, Knoblauch scored the winning run, having led off with a single and scoring on a single by his replacement at 2nd base, Alfonso Soriano. This game became known as "Deja Vu -- It ain't over til it's over -- All Over Again" game, the second consecutive night that the Yankees tied in the bottom of the 9th with two outs, and then won in extra innings.

The Yankees won the American League pennant every year he was with the team, winning three World Series championships.

Kansas City Royals

Towards the end of his career, Knoblauch's performance at the plate also grew worse, with many observers believing he was preoccupied by his fielding troubles and trying too hard to hit home runs. Knoblauch was benched in the final game of the 2001 World Series (he hit just .056), and left for Kansas City as a free agent in the offseason. Knoblauch played in just 80 games in left field for the Royals, batting a meager .210, and the team declined to offer him a new contract the following year. In 2003, having failed to gain a job with a major league team, Knoblauch announced his retirement.

Throwing troubles

Once considered one of the game's best fielders (in fact, ESPN personalities nicknamed him "Fundamentally Sound" Chuck Knoblauch), Knoblauch's play deteriorated shortly into his Yankee career. In 1999 he began to have difficulty making accurate throws to first base, a condition sometimes referred to in baseball as "the yips" or "Steve Blass Disease". By 2000, the problem had grown serious enough that he began seeing more playing time as a designated hitter.

Knoblauch tried various solutions to his problem, but his throwing would not improve. He made an unprecedented number of throwing errors, routinely making abnormal throws out of the reach of the first baseman. (During one game, an errant throw sailed into the crowd and hit sportscaster Keith Olbermann's mother in the face.) Stumping commentators, fans, and himself, Knoblauch never fully recovered his throwing accuracy. He was reassigned to left field by manager Joe Torre, never to return to his old position.

Legal Troubles

On September 25, 2009, an officer from the Memorial Villages Police Department, near Houston, was told by Knoblauch's common-law wife, Stacey Victoria Stelmach, that he hit and choked her. A police officer's sworn affidavit alleges that "redness around her neck and swelling near her eye [were] consistent with her statement." On September 29, 2009, the Harris County, Texas District Attorney charged Knoblauch with assaulting a family member by choking, a third-degree felony in Texas. Knoblauch pled guilty to misdemeanor assault in connection with the case on March 16, 2010. The couple are reportedly going through a divorce.

Legacy

A four-time All-Star, in his career Knoblauch batted .289 with 98 home runs and 615 runs batted in. He stole 25 or more bases in 10 of his 12 seasons, finishing with 407 in his career – including 276 with the Twins, the most for the team since its move from Washington in 1961.

Mitchell Report / Grimsley affidavit

In December 2007, Knoblauch was included in the Mitchell Report in which it was alleged that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his career. In the Mitchell report, Brian McNamee alleges that he procured Human Growth Hormone (HGH) from Kirk Radomski for Knoblauch in 2001 when he served as the New York Yankees assistant strength coach. McNamee alleges that during the season, he injected Knoblauch 7 to 9 times with HGH. McNamee states that Knoblauch paid Radomski for the drugs through him or Jason Grimsley, and also believed that Knoblauch obtained HGH from Grimsley. Knoblauch did not respond to a request to meet with the Mitchell investigators to discuss the allegations.

On December 20, 2007 Knoblauch was also named in Jason Grimsley's unsealed affidavit as an alleged user of HGH. Knoblauch and Grimsley were teammates on the 1999-2000 New York Yankees.

On January 11, 2008, the New York Times published a rare look at Chuck Knoblauch's post-baseball life. The article painted Knoblauch's outlook on baseball and The Mitchell Report as being apathetic. As he has been retired for 5 years, he expressed "bewilderment at his inclusion" in the report and stated that "I have nothing to defend and I have nothing to hide at the same time." As of January 2008, Chuck Knoblauch owned a condominium in Houston, and a house in the Houston area, and was not interested in returning to professional baseball in any capacity.

On January 22, 2008, Knoblauch was subpoenaed by the congressional committee investigating steroids in baseball after he failed to respond to an invitation to give a deposition by the January 18, 2008 deadline. On January 23, the Associated Press reported that federal marshals have as yet been unable to find Knoblauch to serve him with the subpoena.

On January 28, 2008, it was reported that the congressional subpoena had been withdrawn after Knoblauch agreed to give a deposition on February 1, 2008.

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Tagged:
1991 World Series, 1999 World Series, 2000 World Series, 2001 World Series, Chuck Knoblauch, Gold Glove, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Mitchell Report, New York Yankees, Rookie of the Year Award, Texas A&M University, secondbase

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