Chuck Knoblauch

Chuck KnoblauchIn a relatively brief big league career that ended when he was just 33 years old, Chuck Knoblauch accomplished a lot. He won the Rookie of the Year Award, was a four-time All Star, a Gold Glove Winner, and he won four World Series titles while appearing in five Fall Classics.

Knoblauch was a pesky, tenacious player in the mold of Pete Rose when he first came up – not particularly the most polished defender at second base, but a gritty offensive player who grinded it out every pitch, every at-bat. As a young second baseman for the Minnesota Twins in 1991, Knoblauch played in 151 games, scoring 78 runs, driving in 50, and stealing 25 bases. He hit .326 in the post-season as the Twins defeated the Blue Jays and Braves to win the title.

Knoblauch seemed to get better year after year from then on, increasing his average to .297, .312, .333, and ultimately .341 in 1996 when he had 197 hits, 35 doubles, 14 triples, 13 homers, and 45 stolen bases. Knoblauch was one of the best basestealers of the 1990s, pilfering at least 30 bags seven times, with a career-high 82 in 1997.

The Twins dealt Knoblauch to the Yankees prior to the ’98 season for four prospects. In New York, Knoblauch became one of many stars on the team, which helped take some of the pressure off him at the plate, but it soon impacted his play in the field. With the Yankees in 1999, Knoblauch started to have difficulty throwing the ball to first base. He committed 26 errors that season, and when he made 15 (11 throwing) in 2000 in just 82 games at second, the Yankees started using Knoblauch as a DH to ease the pressure on him.

Despite the odd troubles throwing the ball to first base, Knoblauch had success with the Yankees, playing on four straight pennant-winning teams and winning World Series rings from 1998-2000. Hitting near the top of the order, Knoblauch scored more than 100 runs in his first two seasons with the Bombers and also hit career highs in homers both seasons, topping out at 18.

Probably his biggest hit as a Yankee occurred in Game One of the 1998 World Series against the San Diego Padres. Knoblauch hit a game-tying three -run homer in the 7th inning, and moments later a grand slam from Tino Martinez vaulted the Yankees ahead. In those three seasons, 1998-2000, the Yankees were 12-0 in World Series games, with Knoblauch contributing 13 hits, nine runs, and seven RBI.

When the Yankees lost Game Seven of the 2001 World Series on a walk-off hit, it was the first time in 14 post-season series that Knoblauch came out on the losing side.

After that 2001 season, the Yankees did not offer the free agent a contract and Knoblauch signed a one-year, million deal with the Kansas City Royals. Now a left fielder, he struggled in KC, hitting just .210 with very little power in 80 games. He retired in 2003 after failing to find a team who would give him a contract.

Years after he retired it was revealed that Knoblauch’s name had been in the Mitchell Report, which outed players who allegedly took steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. After denying it at first, Knoblauch later acknowledged that he took HGH (Human Growth Hormone) during his playing career with the Yankees. “”I did HGH. It didn’t help me out. It didn’t make me any better,” Knoblauch said, “I had the worst years of my career from a batting average standpoint. And I got hurt. So there was no good that came out of it for me – it was not performance-enhancing for me.”