Sometimes I think back in my life to experiences I've had with baseball, memories I've made associated with the game. I like to run through in my head different events in the game that could be perceived as earmarks in my life as well. A few events that I can remember meaning something to me were the 1994 All-Star Game and unveiling of the Clemente statue at Three Rivers, the home run race in the summer of 1998, the Pirates winning 3 division titles from '90-'92. One event though can sum up my love of the game: Tim Wakefield's debut in 1992. I was only 8 years old but I remember my dad telling me about him and how he threw a knuckleball. I didn't know what it was at the time, but it sounded cool as hell. Tim Wakefield went 8-1 that year, and only gave up 3 home runs with a 2.15 ERA. The fantasy and mysticism of the knuckleball was born in my head. Years later I met Charlie Hough, who taught me to throw a knuckleball when he was the pitching coach for the NY Mets in 2001. He will go down in history as one of the greatest knuckleballers of all time.
My favorite knuckleballer of all time is Hoyt Wilhelm, perhaps the most famous. Rob Neyer's top ten knuckleballers of all time:
10. Eddie Cicotte
9. Joe Niekro
8. Tim Wakefield
7. Dutch Leonard
6. Tom Candiotti
5. Charlie Hough
4. Eddie Rommel
3. Wilbur Wood
1. Hoyt Wilhelm
The knuckleball may be the hardest pitch to throw, but if you can throw one consistently you can pitch at the major league level. I picked up the knuckleball about 6 years ago, and I have been working on perfecting it since with little success. I can throw it but never consistently with enough movement for it to be effective.
The knuckleball was learned by Jim Bouton, the former hard throwing Yankee, to save his career in the late years with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros, which is detailed in his book Ball Four.
I love the knuickleball and it is a shame it is so hard to throw because I would love to see at least 4 or 5 knuckleballers in the big leagues today.
Check out this website if you are interested in the knuckleball and love it as much as I do.