Eddie Knoblauch: As Good As He Wanted To Be?

Eddie Knoblauch 001 The late Eddie Knoblauch is a classic example of the currently popular axiom that “perception is reality.”Some of his fellow teammates, as well as Dutch Meyer, his manager at Dallas in the early 1950s, seem to think that Eddie had all the ability in the world to have moved on up to the big leagues over the 1938-1955 course of his career, but that he just lacked the will to crank it up to that level. If so, why not? One old teammate, armed by the cloak of anonymity in 1998 Dallas newspaper artile suggested that the money differential between minor leagie and major league pay back in the day simply wasn’t big enough to motivate Eddie Knoblauch.

“Eddie Knoblauch, well, he was kind of an unusual fellow,” said former Dallas Eagles manager Dutch Meyer in 1998. “He’d never say anything, and he could play just as good as he wanted to. I’m not trying to say he didn’t play his best all the time, but he was a funny guy, real quiet.”

Let’s cut Eddie a break here. The late Dutch Meyer was advancing into the early stages of Alzheimer’s when he made those comments back in 1998. Maybe players who were quiet and laid back were an easier target for sideways criticism by the old school managers of that era – or any era, for that matter. When you look at Knoblauch’s career stats, its hard to think that he didn’t do enough to reach the majors, anyway. His 15 season carrer production was downright dazzling.

In fifteen seasons, Eddie batted .306 or higher on twelve occasions. The lefty-throwing and lefty- hitting outfielder was only 5’10” and 160 lbs., but his bat was full of singles, doubles, and triples. His career all minor league play batting average of .313 included 2,543 hits. Only 20 of these hits were home runs.

Eddie Knoblauch 002Eddie Knoblauch garnered 391 career doubles and 117 career triples. He also scored 1,420 runs.

Born on January 31, 1918 in Bay City Michigan, the 20-year old Knoblauch broke into  organized ball with the Monett Red Birds of the Class D Arkansas-Missouri League in 1938. He celebrated his debut season by hitting .356, his best one-year mark.  His progress from there was steady, with his less-than-half a season mark of .297 at Ashville in the second half of 1938 appearing only as a chughole now on the final stat sheet.

After his first season, Eddie then hit .335 for Class C  Kilgore in 1939 before moving up to Class B Columbus, Georgia for averages of .345 and .346 in 1940 and 1941.

Knoblauch reached the then Class A1 Houston Buffs in 1942. He batted .308 before spending the next three seasons (1943-45) in the miltary due to Worold War II. Eddie’s return to the 1946 Buffs as a center fielder saw him hit .306, but it also gave him a chance to show off his defensive skills as well. In 72 games in center field, Knoblauch earned 19 outfield assists, plus another four assists as a left fielder.

Eddie put up only his second and third of four total sub .300 seasons for the Buffs in 1947 and 1948, batting .275 (his career low) and .295. These little dips may have led to his early season trade from Houston to Shreveport in 1949, followed by another transfer later that season to his third Texas League club in one year. He rewarded the Tulsa Oiler by finishing the year with a .314 mark. Knoblauch “slumped” to .298 with Tulsa in 1950. He was traded by Tulsa to Dallas after the start of the 1951 season, finishing the year at .308. Eddie “dropped” to .306 in 1952, as his Dallas club finished first, then lost in the post-season Texas League championship playoffs.

In 1953, Eddie Knoblauch batted .304 as his Dallas Eagles swept through the Texas League, winning the playoffs and then taking the championshp of the South by defeating Nashville of the Southern Association in the Dixie Series. The team championship in 1953 was Eddie’s second taste of victory in the Dixies Series. He did it earlier with the 1947 Houston Buffs.

1954 saw Eddie moving on again. After the season started, Dallas dealt him to Beaumont, his fifth of the eight Texas League clubs. Only San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Fort Worth missed out on having soeme service time from Eddie Knoblauch. As per usual, Eddie rewarded Beaumont by batting .305 in 1954.

After the start of the 1955 season, Beaumont traded Eddie back to Dallas for what would prove to be his last season of professional baseball. The 37-year old Knoblauch rewarded Dallas by hitting .327 and winning the Texas League batting championship.

Eddie Knoblauch lived in Houston for many years after his retirement from baseball. He eventually moved to Schertz, Texas, where he died on February 26, 1991 at the age of 73. Yes, he was the uncle of former major leaguer Chuck Knoblauch – and also the brother of former minor league pitcher and longtime Bellaire High School Baseball Coach Ray Knoblauch. In 2002, his boyhood hometown of Bay City, Michigan voted Eddie Knoblauch into the Bay County (MI) Hall of Fame.

Why did a guy who hit and fielded that well never rise above Class AA baseball? Why did his minor league teams keep moving away from a fellow who played the game so consistently well? I really can’t tell you. All I know is that it’s hard for me to just buy into the argument that Eddie Knoblauch missed a major league career because he didn’t want it enough. Maybe he didn’t, but if he didn’t, he sure performed well, year in year out, for a guy who didn’t care enough to get better. Besides, the Eddie Knoblauch I saw play back then would’ve been a joy for me to watch – if he hadn’t been doing all those good things most of the time against my Houston Buffs.

Wish you were still around to give us your take on what actually happened, Mr. Knoblauch. – Eddie, we hardly knew you.

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One Response to “Eddie Knoblauch: As Good As He Wanted To Be?”

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