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Archive for Wednesday, August 7, 2002

New Yorkers nice to Knoblauch

August 7, 2002

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— Chuck Knoblauch's return was better received in New York than when he came back to Minnesota.

From the moment the Kansas City outfielder first stepped out of a taxi near the players' entrance several hours before Tuesday night's game, Yankees fans made him feel right at home.

They broke into cheers and began calling his name as he entered the park. Later, when he came to bat for the first time, the Yankee Stadium crowd responded with prolonged applause before watching him foul out to the catcher to lead off the game.

"I'm glad the fans reacted the way they did. It was really nice," Knoblauch said after getting two hits in the Royals' 6-2 victory. "Winning the game was the best part. Getting a couple of hits to contribute to a win against the Yankees was great."

The warm reception for Knoblauch was in stark contrast to his trips to Minnesota, where he played from 1991-97 before being traded to the Yankees. Last season, fans threw quarters at him in left field, forcing the Yankees to leave the field briefly.

"They're a little off in Minnesota," Knoblauch said before the game. "I give New York people more credit."

Partly because he's still a New Yorker. He still has an apartment in the city and keeps in touch with his former teammates. Knoblauch even had dinner with Yankees outfielder Shane Spencer on Monday night.

"We talk from time to time and e-mail each other," Spencer said. "I told some guy they'll probably give him a standing 'O.' Then, hopefully, they'll boo him the next time around."

Knoblauch immediately noticed some differences in his first trip to Yankee Stadium as a visitor in five years.

"I've made that walk before," Knoblauch said. "The clubhouse for the visiting side is definitely nicer than it was five years ago."

Traded to the Yankees in the 1998 deal that sent Eric Milton and Cristian Guzman to Minnesota, Knoblauch had an eventful four-year stint with the Yankees.

The former Gold Glove winner began having problems throwing to first base in 1999 and the problem stuck with him into the following season. That year, he was sent home once in the middle of a game. He eventually moved from second base to left field before leaving the Yankees as a free agent after last season.

He also was in the middle of some of the team's more memorable moments.

"He was under the microscope a lot," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He never did anything out there that the fans should be unhappy with. He went out all the time and played hard."

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