From Mark Memmott at NPR.org on August 14, 2013, with mention of SABR member Alan Nathan:
This sports news got our attention this week:
The Baltimore Orioles have hired Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro to teach three of the team’s minor league pitchers how to throw the knuckleball — a pitch that can make even the best hitters look helpless. Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Willie Stargell compared its flight to “a butterfly with hiccups.”
According to the New York Times, “Niekro’s assignment is to help the Orioles transform three pitchers into full-time knuckleballers: [Zach] Clark, 30, now with Class A Frederick, Md.; Zach Staniewicz, 27, in the rookie Gulf Coast League; and Eddie Gamboa, 28, of Class AAA Norfolk, Va.”
Knuckleballers are a rarity. At any one time, only one or two are usually in the major leagues. And for the few who achieve fame — Niekro and Charlie Hough in the past, the Toronto Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey in the present — there are hundreds of other pitchers on MLB rosters who don’t try to throw the pitch.
No major league team has gone out of its way to teach the knuckleball. What is Baltimore thinking?
Originally published: August 14, 2013. Last Updated: August 14, 2013.