With Dickey About to Turn 40, Steven Wright, 30, Is “Just Warming Up”; Kind of Like That 19-Inning Sox-Yankees Game on Friday-Saturday

ESPN Red Sox Report’s Gordon Edes (“Knuckleballer Wright could play key role”) does the math re ratio of wins at 30 to total career wins (or career-so-far wins) for celebrated Phi Beta Knucklers.

At 30, they’re just warming up.

“I was 28, going on 29, when I first got here,” said Tim Wakefield, the most celebrated knuckleballer in Red Sox history. “I had success early in my career, but I also failed for a couple of years.  Baseball card Tim Wakefield

“Phil Niekro told me I had more wins at 30 than he had at 30, and he ended up winning 300 games. Go figure.”

That was not an aberration—not in Phi Beta Knuckler. Niekro had 31 wins before 30 and finished with 318. Wakefield had 44 wins by 30 and 200 in his career. Tom Candiotti, assigned by Cleveland to oversee Wright’s conversion to the knuckleball at the end of the 2010 season, Baseball card Phil Niekrohad 29 wins before 30 and 151 for his career. Hoyt Wilhelm had just 15 and finished with 143 after pitching until he was 49. Charlie Hough had 34 and wound up with 216. Current knuckleball practitioner R.A. Dickey of the Blue Jays had 15 wins at 30, out of a total of 89.

Wilhelm, Niekro, Candiotti and Hough all pitched into their 40s, and Dickey will join the 40-and-older club this season.

Wright recently did “a lot of rehab on my hips and back, and for the first time in five years, I feel 18 again.”

See video at m.redsox.mlb.com of Wright pitching, with retired Boston Red Sox knuckleball specialist Tim Wakefield in the stands. The announcers discuss the documentary “Knuckleball!” and its fascinating look at the “minds and stories” of knuckleballers like Wakefield and Dickey. And they mull the knuckleballer’s Baseball card Tom Candiottilongevity. (At 3:06: “I think a knuckleballer pitches as long as he can feel his position, and as long as he can catch that one line drive that comes back through the middle.”)

The Sox and the Yankees made the papers last Saturday in part because it was their first face-off of the season and in part because of the length of the contest. The game, starting on Friday, ending on Saturday, stretched for 19 innings. At long last, Wright ended it:

Early Saturday morning, the Red Sox came away with the win in the second longest game ever played between the two teams. Boston defeated New York, 6-5, in 19 innings Friday night into Saturday morning in the Bronx. The Red Sox improved to 3-1 on the season, while the Yankees fall to 1-3….

The game remained tied until the 16th inning, when David Ortiz’s first home run of the season, a solo shot, gave Boston the lead. It was short-lived, however; Mark Teixeira re-tied the game with a lead-off home run in the bottom of the 16th inning off of Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright. Wright was able to rebound and get out of the inning, with the game still tied….

Steven Wright SmilingAnd mercifully, at 2:14 [a.m.], Steven Wright [right] got Garrett Jones to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game. Time of game: six hours, 49 minutes.

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