As the “boys of summer” take the field and I find yet another reason to enjoy the view out my Hi-deffffff 1080p digital window. I am amazed that I can actually read “Rawlings” on a Wakefield knuckleball; (http://www.flickr.com/photos/waldoj/126354436/). As you see it is thrown from the finger tips and not the knuckles. As with great inventions, the knuckleball pitch has a number of fathers. The pitcher most associated with its’ use in the majors was Eddie “Knuckles” Cicotte who played from 1905 to 1920. According to baseball lore Ciotte began using his knuckles and switched to the finger tips for better performance. Good thing given what his namesake could have been.
When thrown well the knuckleball has little if any spin thus creating vortices over parts, usually the seams, of the ball resulting in the ball changing directions, including corkscrew, as it travels to the catcher’s mitt. If the pitcher is on, the batter, catcher, and umpire for that matter, level of difficulty increases significantly making the ball near impossible to hit, difficult to catch, and call for balls and strikes. When a knuckleball pitcher is off it can be a short outing for him and batting practice along with a speed workout for the opposition.
As I think of the challenges organizations, teams and individuals face these days, I believe those who have experienced a well thrown knuckleball have wisdom for us all.
“You don’t catch a knuckleball, you defend against it.” ― Dodger manager and former catcher Joe Torre Application – Anticipate where you need to be to receive business because it is not going to come to you in the same way as it has in the past. Worse yet, if you miss an opportunity it may result in advancing your competition.
“I never worry about it. I just take my three swings and go sit on the bench. I’m afraid if I ever think about hitting it, I’ll mess up my swing for life.” ― All-star first baseman Dick Allen Application – Do not let the economy dictate your response rather make the best decision you can at the time and move on.
“I always thought the knuckleball was the easiest pitch to catch. Wait till it stops rolling, then go to the backstop and pick it up.” ― broadcaster and former catcher Bob Ueker Application – Humor is an effective coping mechanism, particularly in stressful times.
“There are two theories on hitting a knuckleball. Unfortunately, neither of them works.” ― famed hitting coach Charlie Lau Application – Conventional wisdom may be of little value in complicated situations.
“If it’s high, let it fly. If it’s low, let it go.” ―Common saying describing how to approach hitting the knuckleball. Application – Have a plan and know the opposition has a say in the outcome.
“For a knuckleballer, a pitch count of 150 is not a problem – unless it’s the first inning.” ― Dave Clark, author of The Knucklebook Application – Versatility is underrated and strengths can be overrated.
“Hitting Phill Niekro’s knuckleball is like eating soup with a fork.” ― Riche Hebner Application – It will take more effort, focus and patience to receive the same or even lower, gains than in the past.
“Knuckleballs suck.” ― Gen Petralli after giving up four passed balls in one inning “nough said”