The last several times he stood on a baseball diamond in the Twin Cities, Chuck Knoblauch was booed loudly. The Twins hope he will be cheered when he returns this summer.
Knoblauch, whose Rookie of the Year season helped power the Twins to the 1991 World Series championship, was elected the 27th member of the Twins Hall of Fame, the team announced Friday. The 45-year-old, who spent the first seven seasons of his 12-year career in Minnesota, was elected in a vote of 60 media members, front-office executives, former players and current members of the Hall of Fame. He will be inducted Aug. 23.
“I’m glad he’s going to make it,” said Kent Hrbek, Knoblauch’s teammate from 1991 to ’94. “It ended up sad here, so I’m glad it’s going to get patched up here. I’m hoping he patches it up.”
Knoblauch, has lived quietly in Houston since his 2002 retirement, said in a statement he was humbled by the honor and excited to return to the Twin Cities. “It was a privilege to be part of the Twins organization,” he said.
Knoblauch’s fiery, aggressive style of play made him one of the most popular Twins in the 1990s, but that changed abruptly in 1997 when the second baseman, frustrated by the team’s losing ways, asked for a trade. The request became public, and fans reacted angrily at what many considered a betrayal.
He was traded that winter to the Yankees, with whom he won three more World Series, but he was the target of boos upon each return to the Metrodome. The situation reached a climax on May 2, 2001, when fans threw Dollar-Dog-Night hot dogs at Knoblauch, who was playing left field. Umpires pulled the Yankees off the field, and Twins manager Tom Kelly escorted Knoblauch back to his position when the game resumed, pleading with fans to stop.
But the bitter ending didn’t obscure the way Knoblauch played for the Twins.
His .304 average, along with his 43 home runs and 391 RBI, are second in franchise history for a second baseman behind Rod Carew. He was named to four All-Star teams with the Twins, and his 276 stolen bases are the most in Twins history.
“He’s the first Aggie I ever liked,” Texas alum Ron Gardenhire, Knoblauch’s first pro manager at Class AA Orlando, said of the 1989 first-round draft pick out of Texas A&M. “He’d always been a shortstop, but he was a real student of the game. A heck of a player, so this is well-deserved.”