Knuckleball pitchers hold a special place in my heart. The inherent quirkiness of their signature pitch seems to always rub off on the pitchers themselves. They’re often characters in the most interesting sense of the term. Anyone who can challenge Major League Baseball caliber hitters with a pitch that averages 60 MPH (the average MLB fastball clocks in at 91 MPH) has to be a little bit crazy.
I’ve written before about one of my favorite baseball books, Ball Four by knuckleball pitcher Jim Bouton. Great book. Really, the best MLB book, IMHO. Now you can add Knuckler to the short list of excellent books that cover this most elusive of pitches. Although not nearly the quirky character that Bouton was when he played, Tim Wakefield and co-author Tony Massorotti (a Boston Herald columnist) do a great job communicating the zany vicissitudes of surviving in the major leagues on what amounts to a gimmick pitch. Wakefield’s uniqueness as a knuckleballer comes with the fact that he has no other real “out” pitch. Many other knuckleballers in history possessed at least a decent secondary pitches, but with Tim it’s the flutter-ball or nothing!
Beyond the mechanics of baseball and pitching, Knuckler also explores the many good works Mr. Wakefield has done in the Boston and Melbourne, Florida areas where he makes his home. A lot of professional athletes make a show of giving back, but Tim Wakefield makes a life of it. So yes, read Knuckler if you’re even a little curious about this amazing pitch and how it works, but also read it for what you will learn about how one man can do so much with a second chance. It’s these sorts of stories that make me a baseball fan, and I am confident they’ll have the same effect on you.
P.S. If you like Ball Four and Knuckler, you may also want to check out the book about Tim Wakefield’s mentor, Phil Niekro, entitled Knuckle Balls.