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Aug 10 / King Kaufman

Molly Knight on rough moments as she got her start

Molly Knight, author of one of the big baseball books of the year, “The Best Team Money Can Buy,” about the Los Angeles Dodgers of the last few years, wrote about how she got her start in the sportswriting business for espnW last week.

She writes that she came late to writing, having ditched the idea of med school and moved to New York to write at the age of 21. A few small breaks into her time there, she writes, she started getting “little freelance assignments” from a friend who had become an editor at ESPN the Magazine.

A top editor gave her an assignment to go into a major-league clubhouse, her first. “I learned later it was just a test to see if he would hear back from the public relations department about how I had made an ass of myself and the company,” she writes. “Literally, not making an ass of myself was the main assignment.” Here’s how that went:

The first professional athlete I ever tried to interview hit on me. He refused to answer any of my questions with anything other than, “What hotel are you staying in tonight?” That was the moment where I was sure I had made a mistake, and that the past three years of my life had been nothing but a series of mistakes.

My face turned every shade of maroon and I was so embarrassed it was hard to breathe. (The turtleneck probably didn’t help.) I assumed every day would be like this. What I didn’t know then was that I just happened to encounter the absolute worst sexual harasser on my very first day on the job. When he walked away to the training room, laughing about our encounter, one of his teammates apologized for his behavior and offered to do my silly quiz. I never forgot that kindness.

Knight, who covered baseball for ESPN the Magazine for eight years, writes that being a woman has its advantages on the beat, as players sometimes tell her things they wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to a man. The reverse is sometimes true as well, she writes, concluding, ” If I ran a newsroom, I would hire as many people from as many different walks of life as possible just to keep the perspective from getting stale.”

That issue of female sports reporters being sexually harassed, sometimes routinely, came up again over the weekend, when Minneapolis Star Tribune sportswriter Amelia Rayno wrote about her experience receiving inappropriate texts and touching from University of Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague, who resigned suddenly Friday after similar sexual harassment complaints from two university employees.

Rayno’s colleague at the Star Tribune, Rachel Blount, tweeted that she’d had a similar experience with Norm Green, who owned the Minnesota North Stars—now the Dallas Stars—in the early ’90s.