MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Chuck Knoblauch was elected as the newest member of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame, the team announced on Friday.
The Twins have traditionally kicked off their annual three-day fan festival - known as TwinsFest - by electing a new member to the Hall of Fame, and the latest addition will surely get the fans buzzing. Knoblauch was an elite second baseman for the Twins from 1991-1997, a four-time All-Star, the AL Rookie of the Year in 1991 and a Gold Glove winner.
But Knoblauch's image in Minnesota took a serious hit in his final season here when he requested to be traded from a team that had fallen on hard times. He was sent to the Yankees in a deal that netted the Twins Eric Milton and Cristian Guzman, but many fans never forgave him. Knoblauch was the subject of merciless heckling every time he returned to Minnesota with the Yankees, including one game in 2001 that had to be stopped briefly when fans threw things at him while he played in left field.
From a pure numbers standpoint, Knoblauch was sensational with the Twins. He hit .304 in his Twins career and still holds the franchise career record for steals and the single-season team record for stolen bases and runs scored. In 1996, he posted one of the best seasons ever for a Twin, hitting .341 with 14 triples, scoring 140 runs and stealing 45 bases. That production coupled with outstanding defensive skills at second base that eluded him later in his career with the Yankees convinced voters to make him the 27th member of the team's Hall of Fame.
''Chuck's stellar play during his Rookie of the Year season was instrumental in helping our franchise secure the 1991 World Series championship,'' Twins President Dave St. Peter said. ''Moreover, his on-field play throughout the course of his seven-year Twins career earned him a reputation as one of the AL's best players. The Twins organization looks forward to welcoming Chuck and his family back to Minnesota for this summer's induction ceremony.''
The induction could be the first steps in repairing Knoblauch's image locally, and the reclusive player said he plans to attend the induction ceremony, which will take place before a game against Detroit on Aug. 23.
''I am humbled and honored with the news of my election to the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame,'' Knoblauch said in a statement issued by the team. ''Thank you to the members of voting committee, especially the Twins Hall of Famers and Twins fans everywhere, for this unbelievable recognition. It was a privilege to be part of the Twins organization and I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity the Pohlad family, Andy MacPhail, Terry Ryan, Tom Kelly and so many others provided me.
''The time I spent in Minnesota will always hold a special place in my heart and my family and I are excited about returning to the Twin Cities for the induction ceremony.''