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Saturday, June 17, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Police Investigate Knoblauch Incident -- Autograph Seeker Says He Was Attacked

Seattle Times Staff: Seattle Times News Services

It is a custom that takes place thousands of times a year: a young fan requests an autograph from a high-profile athlete.

But that ritual turned ugly Thursday night at Seattle's Westin Crowne Plaza Hotel. The result was a confrontation and allegations from a 15-year-old from Des Moines that Minnesota Twins All-Star Chuck Knoblauch assaulted him.

The Seattle city attorney's office is investigating whether to file misdemeanor assault charges. Knoblauch, whose baseball team opened a three-game series against the Mariners last night at the Kingdome, said his club advised him not to discuss the incident.

The second baseman, who suffered a strained groin Wednesday, was not in the line-up last night.

Knoblauch, 26, and his fiancee were returning to the team's hotel at about 10 p.m. Thursday when he was approached by a handful of autograph seekers. He declined to sign, and the boy alleges that the incident ended with the 5-foot-9, 181-pound Knoblauch grabbing him by the shirt and scratching his neck.

"I was trying to get his autograph, and then suddenly, he attacked me," the boy told The Associated Press yesterday. "He threw me up against a wall and he tried to choke me or he grabbed my neck."

The boy admitted yelling an insult - "You suck" - before Knoblauch reacted.

"I said, `I'm sorry. You're an All-Star. I was just joking around.' Then, he pushed me up against the cab and started yelling," the boy said.

Knoblauch, according to the boy's statement to police, then turned, pushed him against a pillar outside the hotel, yelled obscenities at him, grabbed him by the throat and "repeatedly poked him in the chest with his finger." The boy's T-shirt was torn.

Knoblauch told police that he ignored the autograph requests because he wanted to retain his privacy and simply return to the hotel.

Knoblauch admitted to the investigating officer that he grabbed the boy's T-shirt collar and, according to the report, he said he "asked if (the boy) thought (Knoblauch) sucked as a ballplayer, why was he asking him for his autograph?"

Two witnesses - a dentist and his assistant - told police that Knoblauch backed the boy up against the pillar and asked him, "why (he) wasn't at home or spending time with his family at this hour of the night, as opposed to standing out in front of a hotel?"

The witnesses, who do not know Knoblauch, told police that they saw him standing very close to the boy but did not see him touch the boy.

The police report notes a small scratch on the right side of the boy's neck and a small scratch on the back of his neck. There was also a tear of about four inches in the collar of the boy's T-shirt.

The police report names neither Knoblauch, because no formal criminal charges have been filed, nor the boy, because he is a minor.

Bill Smith, Minnesota's assistant general manager, met with Knoblauch for 30 minutes before last night's game and said he was satisfied with the second baseman's explanation.

"It was an unfortunate misunderstanding between two people," Smith said. "The police are investigating, and we're going to leave it to them."

That process could take weeks or months, said Sean O'Donnell, spokesman for the Seattle Police Department. "We don't expect any rapid resolution to this incident.

"At this point, we have this report that will not receive any special precedence or go through any special proceedings."

Knoblauch, the 1991 American League Rookie of the Year, is one of the few bright spots in a disastrous 1995 season for Minnesota. The Twins have the worst record in baseball, 14-33. Knoblauch has a .345 batting average this season, and began the year with a .291 career average.

Compiled from reports by Knight-Ridder Newspapers and The Associated Press.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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