Gwen Knapp always found the truth
The longtime journalist had the courage to take on Lance Armstrong and vote for Ken Caminiti.
Gwen Knapp was one of the good ones.
The longtime baseball scribe, reporter, columnist and recently, New York Times editor died Friday.
In 2007, Knapp was one of two writers (the other being Rick Telander) to vote for Ken Caminiti for baseball's hall of fame because of his honesty in talking about his steroids use five years earlier.
"Caminiti told the truth when no one else would," she wrote at the time for SFGate. "He stands for something that should be recognized at Cooperstown, especially as the great uncertainty of the steroids generation descends on the Hall of Fame."
She lauded Caminiti's honesty when few others did, and she also cast skepticism on cycling's Lance Armstrong (who admitted to doping years later) when most writers were happy to spin fairy tales about his sanctity. She could see through the complexities of a topic like PEDs and recognize the actual heroes and villains in real-time instead of following along with the herd.
I exchanged a few messages with Knapp while I worked on my book on Caminiti. We tried to line up an interview but could never sync up our schedules. In the end, her vote — and her writing — said everything that needed to be said.
That was the way her writing was. Present. Original. Insightful.
Which is what made her coverage for the Philadelphia Inquirer of a Phillies-Padres doubleheader in 1993 that ended at 4:40 a.m. so much damn fun.
There's so much imagery packed into her story. I love this line: "At 2 a.m., a sleeping 7-year-old caught a bouncing foul ball in the gut."
Or this paragraph:
The fans were kept in suspense until 1:04, a minute after the final out of a 5-2 Padres victory. “The second game will start at 1:25,” the stadium announcer said firmly and calmly. Delirium ensued. T-shirts, still soggy from six hours of rain, came off their owners’ backs and went twirling in the air — a salute to the disembodied voice. One man turned his back to home plate and bowed repeatedly in the direction of a stadium skybox.
The story is a tour-de-force — she captured the late-night, early-morning double-header from all angles. Players. Coaches. Fans. Umps. Broadcasters.
She helped readers see things in a sharper way. And as a journalist, that's the ultimate goal.