Neyer: Why I love knuckleball pitchers

From SABR member Rob Neyer at The National Pastime Museum on March 3, 2014:

I don’t remember exactly when I became somewhat obsessed with knuckleball pitchers. I do remember taking some interest in Wilbur Wood’s exploits with the White Sox in the early 1970s. A few years later, I read Jim Bouton’s Ball Four: My Life and Hard Times Throwing the Knuckleball in the Big Leagues. I might have realized, then, that without the mysterious and unpredictable knuckleball, the most important book in baseball history almost certainly wouldn’t have existed. Maybe that should have been enough to spur my interest. But I waited until 1992—when Tim Wakefield exploded upon the baseball world without warning—to read books, make lists, and pay special attention when a knuckleballer was pitching on television.

I realized then just how interesting knuckleball pitchers have always been. They do interesting things and have interesting careers and write interesting books and are the most fascinating subject in a fascinating area of study. A pitcher named Jim Tobin once hit three home runs in one game and threw two no-hitters in one season. He was a knuckleball pitcher. Eddie Cicotte was the linchpin of the Black Sox scandal. He was a knuckleball pitcher. Jim Bouton was a knuckleballer. All you need to do is find a knuckleballer, then wait for something interesting to happen.

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Originally published: March 3, 2014. Last Updated: March 3, 2014.