Prospective Knuckleballers Gotta Ask Yourselves One Question

Ryan Nagelhout of Uproxx.com remembers, and interviews, Tim Wakefield, who “had one of the most fascinating pitching careers in the modern Major Leagues.”

Wakefield of Red SoxBut Wakefield rebuilt his career as a knuckleballer, catching on with the Boston Red Sox for 17 seasons in which he pitched the most innings in Red Sox history. He won 200 games, two World Series, and pitched as baseball experienced a steroid era and a statistical revolution. Wake gave up the game-losing home run to Aaron Boone in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, only to pitch crucial innings the next season as the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years.

Wakefield says that his favorite part of filming the documentary “Knuckleball” was probably “being able to sit and talk knuckleball with four generations of knuckleballers. Phil Niekro was obviously one generation, then Charlie Hough was another, then myself, then R.A. Dickey, who is the newest generation.”

Wakefield and Nagelhout also discuss changes coming to baseball and whether, despite the publication of an article entitled “There Is No Future of Baseball,” America’s pastime has a future. (Answer: yes.)

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NewsOK on Charlie HoughAnother knuckleballer recalled and interviewed this month, by Jacob Unruh for NewsOK, is Charlie Hough, who says his entire career is based on somebody asking him a question.

I was a first baseman, third baseman and pitcher with a decent arm actually. I could throw. I was drafted after my senior year in high school and pitched four years as a regular pitcher. My second year I won 16 games. I think I had 14 (or) 15 complete games as a 19-year-old, and then my arm was shot. I hurt my shoulder.

I pitched two more years in Double A and then a minor league coach named Goldie Holt said to me, “Have you ever tried to throw a knuckleball?” I said, “No, show me how.” I played catch with him and in about 10 minutes I could throw it. Now, I spent the next 25 years trying to get it over the plate….

I was 45 years old and I’m pitching a big league game 10 miles from my high school. It’s the first big-league game in Florida—a real one—and we faced the Dodgers. It was great. I hung in there the last two years, so it was a lot of fun.

The knuckleball was easier on my arm, because I still had arm problems….

It looks very simple, but it requires just a ton of dedication to doing it.

Charlie Hough with Marlins shirtThe moral of the story: give it some serious thought if anyone, including yourself, asks whether you have ever tried to throw a knuckleball. Especially if you want to suffer less wear and tear while pitching and/or want a longer—maybe even way longer—career in baseball.

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