It’s 4:20 pm
The wind is howling outside on a very cold and rainy day. It’s the first week of baseball and while we should be excited about opening day,it looks and feels like winter outside.
But that didn’t stop Paladin the cheetah and I from watching the 2012 baseball documentary “Knuckleball!” beautifully directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg.
In this film,two film crews follow the only two major league pitchers,Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox and R.A. Dickey,who was pitching for the New York Mets at the time this was shot,throughout the 2011 baseball season.
The knuckler has been around for a long time in pro baseball but its very rare for a pitcher to actually throw it well enough for a major league team. The movie mentions the handful of pitchers who actually were/are successful is throwing a pitch that they have no real control over. The hitters are often baffled but so are the pitchers.
Sundberg and Stern take the time to talk to the other pitchers who used the knuckler to great acclaim,the Niekro brothers,Joe and Phil,Jim Bouton who made a unexpected comeback using the pitch back in 1978 after retiring from major league ball in 1970.
Charlie Hough who pitched for the LA Dodgers and Tom Candiotti are also featured heavily as Dickey is shown getting help from both Hough and Phil Niekro during the 2011 season.
The movie is built around Wakefield,who at 45,knows his time is running short as he chases his 200th win and Dickey,who,despite being in pro baseball 14 years,has never established himself anywhere until having a strong year for the Mets in 2010 and signing his first multi-year big contract.
2011 was Dickey’s first year under the contract and the pressure to perform well sits on his shoulders.
The history of the pitch and the art of throwing is covered during various meetings with Wakefield,Dickey,Phil Niekro and Hough. They mention the players they enjoyed facing the most and the least. The brotherhood of what many call a “trick” pitch is very small but very dedicated. Both Hough and the Niekro brothers have welcomed many pitchers who are trying to throw the pitch and try to impart their wisdom.
Both Wakefield and Dickey have their best games shown and you are left wondering why more pitchers don’t use the knuckleball more,it truly is a maddening pitch to hit.
But then you see how even established masters of the knuckler will be the first to tell you that when the knuckler goes south,its so hard to regain control of it.
Both player’s careers are covered as well…Wakefield was a converted first baseman who told either he become a pitcher or be released. He took that to heart and after a white hot start for the Pittsburgh Pirates,he struggled and was released after two years. The Red Sox signed Tim and the rest is baseball history.
Dickey’s story is also covered and he wrote a excellent book detailing his road to the major’s called “Wherever I Wind Up” which I read and highly recommend.
Wakefield’s worst game (but one of my favorite games) is highlighted,giving up the home run to the Yankee’s Aaron Boone in 2003 which sent the Yanks to the World Series. It overshadowed the great season he had and the outstanding post-season run he had.
Such is life of a knuckleball pitcher,you don’t always know where the ball will take you.
The cheetah and I both loved this and give it a thumbs/paws up.
Let us know what you think and leave a comment below.
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