I spent many hours in the outfield and on different mounds of baseball fields all over Texas practicing my knuckleball. Growing up in Texas in the 1980s, I was always Charlie Hough when pretending to be a knuckleball pitcher. It was a lot of fun, but my knuckleball was never that great.
Fast forward to the 1990s and I can remember watching Tim Wakefield pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates and pitching well. I’ve always been a fan of knuckleball pitchers. It’s a fascinating pitch that people think is easier to throw than it really is.
So when I saw they made a movie about the pitch, I had to see it. Knuckleball! was a great film. It is a documentary on the most unpredictable pitch in baseball.
The main stars of the film are Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey and it takes place during the 2011 season which was Wakefield’s last. I loved how the film documented the careers of both Dickey and Wakefield as neither of them started off as a knuckleball pitcher. Both converted to one in a last ditch effort to make it, or in Dickey’s case stay, in the big leagues.
They showed the path of both careers pretty well which made for an interesting story since both had completely different paths to big league stardom. They demonstrated that they are not only pitchers but good athletes. Sometimes knuckleball pitchers are seen as lesser athletes because they don’t throw as hard and many times are much older. I liked that they showed this wasn’t really the case.
I was glad they brought in some of the older guys to talk about the pitch including Jim Bouton, Charlie Hough, Wilbur Wood, and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro. The pitchers seem to have a special bond with one another that I found interesting.
What I didn’t like is they didn’t talk much about the history of the pitch. They talked to a few old timers that threw the pitch, but I would have liked them to go further back in time and talk about when and how it started and why some of the older guys started throwing the pitch.
With that being said, the film was very interesting. I was curious how they would show the pitch in they eyes of conventional thought. They basically had the pitch coming off as unreliable and a second tier pitch that is almost looked down on at times. I can understand that to an extent, but if it was so unreliable then guys that throw it well wouldn’t have lasted so long in the big leagues and gotten so many starts.
I’d definitely give it a look if you’re a baseball fan. It’s an interesting film about a pitch that not many people throw.
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Eric Bynum is Managing Editor here at BaseballdeWorld. He spent three years as an ESL teacher in South Korea, and is now working on his master's degree in history with a focus on baseball and WWII. He has played and/or written about baseball for the past 30 years and is an avid Atlanta Braves fan.