The Last Knuckleballer

Don Wassall

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Sep 30, 2004
Messages
30,205
Location
Pennsylvania
There's never been many knuckleballers, and Tim Wakefield is the only one currently in the majors.


Never as good as the Niekro brothers, Wakefield is having his best season at the age of 41. With 16 wins he has a shot at 20. Twenty wins has become a rare achievement, and no knuckleballer has accomplished it since Joe Niekro in 1980. It would be a shame if Wakefield is the last of a notable breed of pitcher.


Wilbur Wood had the best stretch of pitching ever bya knuckler, winning 20 games four straight years from '71 to '74. He was also an amazing ironman, often starting on two days rest. He pitched 376 innings in 1972. In '73 he both won and lost 20 games, finishing 24-20! But other than a five year stretch, Wood was a very mediocre pitcher.
 

Riddlewire

Master
Joined
Jul 12, 2007
Messages
2,565
Charlie Haeger, a rookie pitcher with the White Sox, is also a knuckeball pitcher. He was competing for a spot in the rotation earlier this season (lost out to John Danks). He hasn't pitched in a while. I'm not a White Sox fan so I don't know his current status. I'd imagine he's still up there. No real reason to send him down. They stink this year. Everybody caught on to them stealing signs the past two years and now they're back to being lousy with an idiot manager.
 

Don Wassall

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Sep 30, 2004
Messages
30,205
Location
Pennsylvania
Haeger was demoted to the minors on Aug. 2nd. I agree about Guillen -- if he was white he would have been canned for his buffoonery.
 

Solomon Kane

Mentor
Joined
Jul 3, 2006
Messages
783
Knuckleballers are great longevity wise--Niekro, Hoyt Wilhelm, Hough, Wakefield. They never have to worry about losing their fastball or the snap on their curve. Either it's knucklin or it ain't---and age has little to do with it.

Keep knucklin' Wake!
 

foreverfree

Mentor
Joined
Nov 7, 2004
Messages
902
Didn't one time Yankee phenom Jim Bouton develop a knuckler when he was back in the minors in 1968, before the Seattle Pilots gave him a new lease on life as a reliever in 1969 (his Ball Four season)?

John
 

Extra Point

Hall of Famer
Joined
Oct 21, 2012
Messages
6,289
Didn't one time Yankee phenom Jim Bouton develop a knuckler when he was back in the minors in 1968, before the Seattle Pilots gave him a new lease on life as a reliever in 1969 (his Ball Four season)?

John

Jim Bouton passed away at the age of 80. He had a good career in the majors. He won 20 games once and won two games in the World Series. After he developed arm troubles he developed a knuckleball and continued his career. His book Ball Four gave people an insight of what major league baseball players were really like.

RIP Jim Bouton
 
Joined
Dec 18, 2004
Messages
2,945
Jim Bouton passed away at the age of 80. He had a good career in the majors. He won 20 games once and won two games in the World Series. After he developed arm troubles he developed a knuckleball and continued his career. His book Ball Four gave people an insight of what major league baseball players were really like.

RIP Jim Bouton

Ball Four's "insight of what major league ball players were really like" didn't surprise me a bit.
 

Flint

Mentor
Joined
Jan 27, 2016
Messages
1,468
That's a funny book. Worth a read even today. Bouton was a flaming liberal back when baseball was conservative. He became a bit of a pariah for breaking the code of silence about locker room behavior.
Its quite tame by today's standards.
 
Joined
Dec 18, 2004
Messages
2,945
That's a funny book. Worth a read even today. Bouton was a flaming liberal back when baseball was conservative. He became a bit of a pariah for breaking the code of silence about locker room behavior.
Its quite tame by today's standards.

Commissioner Bowie Kuhn made a big deal of condemning the book and even called Bouton in for a dressing down. All of which sent the book's sales through the roof.

On the other hand, every club house had a sign saying "What you see here. What you hear here. It stays here." Bouton broke the code and was scorned by most players.
 

shamrock

Newbie
Joined
Dec 29, 2019
Messages
96
There's never been many knuckleballers, and Tim Wakefield is the only one currently in the majors.


Never as good as the Niekro brothers, Wakefield is having his best season at the age of 41. With 16 wins he has a shot at 20. Twenty wins has become a rare achievement, and no knuckleballer has accomplished it since Joe Niekro in 1980. It would be a shame if Wakefield is the last of a notable breed of pitcher.


Wilbur Wood had the best stretch of pitching ever bya knuckler, winning 20 games four straight years from '71 to '74. He was also an amazing ironman, often starting on two days rest. He pitched 376 innings in 1972. In '73 he both won and lost 20 games, finishing 24-20! But other than a five year stretch, Wood was a very mediocre pitcher.

Today's baseball has no room for knuckleballers any more. No room for forkball pitchers (Elroy Face); none for slow ball artists like Stu Miller and Eddie Lopat; or for "fadeaway" pitchers like Mathewson and Hubbell. No room for 5'5" pitchers like Bobby Shantz. Baseball has become as standardized as everything else in Amerika 2.0. All the pitchers have the same windups and throwing motions. The Stepford wives have conquered the game. That's why few people bother to watch now. Oh, most of us have more money than we need, so we all buy the MLB TV package and that's how the game makes its money. But the TV package is just background noise in most homes, something that pacifies our brains while we work on other stuff. It finally has achieved what its critics claimed decades ago. It's boring. So now everyone watches the Negro Football League.

As for the greatest knuckleballer, I put my money on Wilhelm, a truly brilliant pitcher.
 

booth

Mentor
Joined
Jul 23, 2015
Messages
1,702
R.A. Dickey and Steven Wright are the last two I can think of. Dickey won the Cy Young award with the Mets and Wright pitch for Boston until about two years. I really don't know what happen to him unless it was an injury.
 

Charles Martel

Hall of Famer
Joined
Mar 14, 2007
Messages
8,484
Hoyt Wilhelm was an amazing knuckleball pitcher. He led the majors in win-loss percentage and the National League in ERA as a rookie in 1952.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/wilheho01.shtml

from wikipedia:

At the time of his retirement, Wilhelm had pitched in a then major league record 1,070 games. He is recognized as the first pitcher to have saved 200 games in his career, and the first pitcher to appear in 1,000 games.

Wilhelm is one of the oldest players to have pitched in the major leagues; his final appearance was 16 days short of his 50th birthday.

Wilhelm retired with the lowest career earned run average of any major league hurler after 1927 (Walter Johnson) who had pitched more than 2,000 innings.

WilhelmHoyt1954.jpg
 
Last edited:

Bucky

Hall of Famer
Joined
Jul 20, 2018
Messages
9,004
Today's baseball has no room for knuckleballers any more. No room for forkball pitchers (Elroy Face); none for slow ball artists like Stu Miller and Eddie Lopat; or for "fadeaway" pitchers like Mathewson and Hubbell. No room for 5'5" pitchers like Bobby Shantz. Baseball has become as standardized as everything else in Amerika 2.0. All the pitchers have the same windups and throwing motions. The Stepford wives have conquered the game. That's why few people bother to watch now. Oh, most of us have more money than we need, so we all buy the MLB TV package and that's how the game makes its money. But the TV package is just background noise in most homes, something that pacifies our brains while we work on other stuff. It finally has achieved what its critics claimed decades ago. It's boring. So now everyone watches the Negro Football League.

As for the greatest knuckleballer, I put my money on Wilhelm, a truly brilliant pitcher.

Agreed..Long ball or go home.

When I was in HS my coach was hell bent on having me throw over the top, not 3/4ths release like was comfortable for me. Everything had to be by the book! I'm sure this is the way ball players are being taught all over.

Also thanks for the heads up on Willhelm!
 

Flint

Mentor
Joined
Jan 27, 2016
Messages
1,468
I tried to throw a knuckleball as a kid. Me and a buddy would throw to each other for hours trying to get a good one. I found that a windy day throwing into the wind was the best. Contrary to common belief the knuckleball doesn't dance around like a butterfly (typically) it has one late breaking dip that makes it a mother to hit (or catch).

I completely agree with the poster shamrock, baseball has no diversity(!) I mean the good kind. Lots of different white guys (haha). I think the problem is nobody is learning out on the sandlot doing their own thing. They all go to "camps" and learn what everyone else is learning. I'm sure they are slotted like in football. Hey you, kid, 6'4 long arm, big hand? You're a power pitcher, now don't throw any breaking balls.
 

Don Wassall

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Sep 30, 2004
Messages
30,205
Location
Pennsylvania
If I was an aspiring pitcher I would at least try to learn to throw a knuckleball. Why? Because knuckleballers easily have the longest MLB careers. I remember hoping Phil Niekro would pitch into his 50s but he "only" made it to 48 (and 318 wins). His younger brother Joe pitched in the majors until he was 43 and ended with 221 wins. Sadly he died of a brain aneurysm at the young age of 61.

Very few occupations pay more than what pro baseball players get. I consider what pro athletes make in all sports obscene and unjustifiable, but if I was one myself why not take advantage of it to the utmost.
 
Top