Knuckle Ballin!

"Boston Red Sox Tim Wakefield knuckleball"
Boston Red Sox Tim Wakefield tosses his famous knuckleball

Tim Wakefield, who spent most of his 17-year baseball career with the Boston Red Sox, was the featured guest and the major star at the Boston premiere of the documentary Knuckleball! The film follows two knucklers, Wake and the Mets A.R. Dickey, through the 2011 season and investigates the pitchers and their elusive but often highly effective pitch.

Looks Easy, It Ain’t

The knuckleball looks easy to throw but it is not. The pitch seems to sail from the mound towards the plate harmlessly but then it acts in a bizarre manner just before it gets to the batter. Hitters become missers, as they swing at pitches out of the strike zone or, worse yet, they become watchers, as the knuckler sails suddenly into the zone.

Knuckleballs are very tempting pitches for hitters to swipe at as they travel between 60 and 85 mph. That’s dead slow for a MLB batter. But when the knuckleball pitcher is on and his pitch is doing what it’s supposed to do, then that pitch can be impossible to connect with in any meaningful manner. Strikeouts, dribblers and pop outs are the most common results. However, when the pitch isn’t behaving properly, gopher balls are numerous and knucklers leave for the showers early.

Wake and the Film

This is a great movie for baseball and Wakefield fans. Wake is featured throughout. Tim Wakefield was at the Boston premiere fielding questions instead of ground balls and offered his insights on the subject of the movie Knuckleball!

Speaking of the knuckleball, Wake said, “It was a struggle from Day 1 when we all started learning the knuckleball. Dealing with adversity with the pitch, dealing with nobody wanting you feeling like you’re on a desert or deserted island by yourself, and I think one of the life lessons that I learned a long time ago from Phil [Niekro] was learn to accept your losses without being defeated.” He added, “I think we call all use that adage in our life, because we all go through hard times in life and you can learn to accept those hard times and keep moving forward, never look behind you.”

Four Knuckleball Greats

The premiere featured a starting rotation of knuckleball greats, as Wake was joined by Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro, and Wilbur Wood. Wakefield noted that they were his mentors, and he was proud to be part of their fraternity.

The former Boston pitcher noted, “You’ll see in the film it’s a very close-knit fraternity. There’s only a handful of guys that ever did it in the big leagues and it’s a way that we share our thoughts and ideas with each other.”

Where to See Knuckleball!

Knuckleball! Is now playing at the Coolidge Corner in Brookline. Get out and see it. With a Red Sox season that has lacked highlights, this will be a great relief and it will leave you feeling good about being a Boston Red Sox fan and proud that we had a knuckler named Tim Wakefield playing for the home team.

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