Apr 30, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Television reporter Buster Olney before the game between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Uncovering player stories requires diligence as a baseball reporter. With clubhouse access, you might find yourself waiting by specific lockers, hoping a player is receptive to an interview. It’s a gamble sometimes, but the effort can pay off. And that’s what happened with ESPN’s Buster Olney back when he covered the New York Yankees.

On a day-to-day basis, Olney had no idea whether second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, who had a bout of the yips, would speak to the media, as he explained to host Jessica Kleinschmidt on this week’s episode of the Awful Announcing podcast.

“When I was covering the Yankees, Chuck Knoblauch, their second baseman, was going through the yips,” said Olney. “And a situation, where he didn’t know if he was going to throw the ball in the stands, or he’s going to make accurate throws. And it was really heartbreaking to watch. This guy came to the Yankees as a Gold Glove player, and he was just melting down day by day. And you wished that Chuck would just come out and say, ‘You know guys, I’m not talking today,’ or ‘You know what, I’m gonna give you five minutes and I’m gonna go.’

“And it was just a total wild card as to whether or not he was going to talk on a given day. And this was such a big issue on the team at that time. So, you spent your time — so much time standing by his locker; and there was a part of you that felt kind of bad about it because you felt like someone who was watching an accident on the highway, right? And I always wished that that was cleaner than it was.”

Despite repeated requests, Knoblauch remained tight-lipped for days. But then, something changed.

“One game in Chicago, he threw three balls away and in the first five innings,” explained Olney. “[He] came out of the game, and after the game, I waited and waited and waited, and he came out and just poured his heart out. And talked about how if it didn’t turn around, he was going to have to ‘take it to the house,’ was the phrase he used. Like, he was just broken by this. But that was the result of all that time; the payoff of waiting and waiting and waiting for him to actually talk.”

Olney’s dogged pursuit of Knoblauch paid dividends, proving that staking out lockers isn’t glamorous, but persistence can lead to uncovering powerful stories.

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About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.