Kurt Knop: MSBL World Series Pioneer and Inaugural Tournament Director (Seventh in a Series)

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

In our 35th anniversary tour, we are switching gears just a little in that we are going way back to the beginnings of the MSBL World Series but not so much showcasing someone who has been playing and running leagues for decades.

Enter 57-year-old Kurt Knop.  Kurt was not only the very first MSBL World Series Tournament Director, a position he held for ten years, but was an integral part in assisting Steve Sigler in setting up the facilities that we continue to enjoy playing on to this day.

“Back in 1987 I was working for a sports marketing firm and part of my job was setting up Major League Baseball Fantasy Camps on the spring training facilities,” explained Knop.  “Steve contacted me and asked my advice on how to approach the people running those venues and as they say, the rest is history.”

At Steve’s urging, Kurt was also the first commissioner of the Bay Area MSBL.  At the age of 23 and living a bachelor’s life, he decided to start advertising for a league and see what happened.

“I remember asking my roommates if I could list our phone number as the contact and they agreed.  The Bay Area at that time didn’t have adult leagues anywhere.  The concept was embraced and much to the chagrin of my roomies we received 350 calls and put together 14 teams in the first year!”

For Kurt’s efforts in the early days of MSBL, as both league president and World Series consultant, and tournament director, he was named to the MSBL National Hall of Fame in 1997.

“The funny thing is that I was the league commissioner for only two years because I moved to the Los Angeles area but I never pursued that position anywhere else.  To go along with that, I have never played an inning of league or World Series baseball!  I was solely in an administrative position.  Life, schooling, and parenting have taken over my life the past 25 years.”

Current World Series Tournament Director Tom Prendergast took over full time in 1998 but was Kurt’s assistant for a few years before that.

“I certainly left the World Series in good hands with Tom.  We started that first year with 30 or so teams and when I exited, we were at 250 to 275 teams when Tom took the reins.  I understand that it is now up to around 325 annually.  That’s amazing and a real tribute to the product.”

The early days of the World Series must have had some monumental starts and stops as the format we enjoy today was being ironed out.

“One crazy thing happened at our very first World Series.  We had arranged for buses to pick up the players at various hotels and drive them to and from the fields.  About two weeks before the first pitch we realized that this would be a logistical nightmare and also cost a zillion dollars!  It was set up with all good intentions and a way to provide some first-class treatment.

Upon further thought, we realized that the players and their wives or girlfriends would have plans to go eat, head somewhere else, and just wanted to do their own thing.  We contacted everyone, canceled the busses, scrambled to make a map to hand out, and said ‘you’re on your own.  That was a close call.”

As most of you are certainly aware, the World Series standings, schedules, and results are emailed directly to our member base on their phones and computers every morning and also posted on the website and on Facebook and Twitter.  You can’t possibly be in the dark about what’s happening.  But that wasn’t always the case, as you MSBL World Series veterans are very aware.

“We used to deliver newsletters to hotels at ‘dark’ o’clock.  Kinkos would crank them out after we completed all of the night games and formatted the newsletter.  Drivers delivered them all over at night.  It was real craziness.  Equipment distribution was also crazy at check-in.  Now Steve, Tom, and the crew have it down to an art.”

I asked Kurt if he had any final words to summarize his ten years in the barrel of the gun. 

“The absolute pure joy of adults playing baseball remains the joyful experience I take away.  Knowing that no matter what walk of life they were from, they were all equals for a week of baseball.  It was wonderful to watch.  That enthusiasm and camaraderie were the core.  That was and is the driving thing.

I didn’t have a dog in the hunt.  I wasn’t a player so I focused solely on the task I was assigned without favoritism.  In the early years the only challenge was people thinking I was in it was for the money, but it was because of my passion.  I could be neutral while enjoying the experience.  I’ll never forget those early years of MSBL.”