List of knuckleball pitchers

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Knuckleball pitchers are those professional baseball players who have relied on the knuckleball as their primary pitch or who made it to professional baseball based on their ability to throw a knuckleball. The invention of the knuckleball has never been definitively identified, though there are a number of pitchers from the early 20th century who have been credited with its creation. Baseball statistician / historian Rob Neyer lists four different individuals in an article he wrote in the 2004 book The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers as potentially deserving credit, any of whom may have originated the pitch in either the 1907 or 1908 seasons. Nap Rucker of the Brooklyn Dodgers came up to the majors in 1907, initially throwing hard stuff but later switching to the knuckleball. A 1908 article credited Lew Moren as the inventor of the pitch. Ed Cicotte earned a full-time spot with the Detroit Tigers in 1908, earning the nickname "Knuckles" for his signature pitch. A picture of Ed Summers showed him gripping what he called a "dry spitter" using a variation of the knuckleball grip using the knuckles of his index and middle fingers.[1]

Unlike almost every other pitch in baseball, the knuckleball's erratic trajectory has often required teams to use dedicated catchers, often using specialized mitts, to field the deliveries. Catcher Clint Courtney used a specially constructed catcher's mitt, 50% larger than the conventional mitts used at the time, to catch knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm during a game in May 1960. Umpire Al Smith credited the use of the glove with preventing three or four passed balls in that one game.[2] The lower velocity of the knuckleball is credited with giving those who use it the ability to pitch more often and to have pitching careers far longer than those who rely on their fastball to get outs. Tim Wakefield has pitched on consecutive days, when most starting pitchers in the 21st century throw after four-day's rest. Hoyt Wilhelm pitched until he was almost 50 and Phil Niekro used the pitch until he was 48. Wakefield retired at 45.

The prevalence of the knuckleballer has varied over time. The 1945 Washington Senators finished 1½ games out of first place with a starting pitching staff that almost exclusively used the pitch, with four knuckleballers in the rotation. That season, the team's three catchers — regular catcher Rick Ferrell and backups Al Evans and Mike Guerra — combined for 40 passed balls, more than double that of any other team in the league.[3]

Joe Niekro and R.A. Dickey have won the NL Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award, and Wilbur Wood has won the The Sporting News AL Pitcher of the Year Award in 1972. Dickey has won the NL Cy Young Award. Phil Niekro is the only knuckleball pitcher to win 300 games.[4]

Notable knuckleballers[edit]

The following lists knuckleball pitchers who are primarily known for throwing the knuckleball or those who established professional careers based on their throwing the knuckleball. Excluded are individuals who threw the pitch occasionally or those who did not play professional baseball primarily as a pitcher. Major League Baseball career statistics are from Baseball-Reference.

Eddie Cicotte is credited as the inventor of the knuckleball.
R.A. Dickey reinvented his career by developing a knuckleball.
Phil Niekro is the only knuckleballer to win 300 games.[4]
Key
G Games pitched
W Career wins
L Career losses
SV Career saves
ERA Career earned run average
dagger
Member of the Baseball Hall of Fame
 • Cy Young Award winner
Knuckleball pitchers
Name Debut Final G W L SV ERA Ref(s)
Bearden, GeneGene Bearden 1947 1953 193 45 38 1 3.96 [5][6]
Boone, DannyDanny Boone 1981 1990 16 2 1 4 3.36 [7][8]
Bouton, JimJim Bouton 1962 1978 304 62 63 6 3.57 [9][10]
Burnette, WallyWally Burnette 1956 1958 68 14 21 1 3.56 [11][12]
Candiotti, TomTom Candiotti 1983 1999 451 151 164 0 3.73 [13][14]
Cicotte, EddieEddie Cicotte 1905 1920 502 208 149 25 2.38 [15][16]
Dickey, R. A.R. A. Dickey  • 2001 present 283 80 73 2 4.02 [17][18]
Fernández, JaredJared Fernández 2001 2006 37 4 7 0 5.05 [19][20]
Fisher, EddieEddie Fisher 1959 1973 690 80 70 81 3.41 [21][22]
Haefner, MickeyMickey Haefner 1943 1950 261 78 91 13 3.50 [23][24]
Haeger, CharlieCharlie Haeger 2006 2010 19 2 7 1 6.35 [25][26]
Haines, JesseJesse Haines dagger 1918 1937 555 210 158 10 3.64 [27][28][29]
Hough, CharlieCharlie Hough 1970 1994 858 216 216 61 3.75 [30][31]
Leonard, DutchDutch Leonard 1933 1953 640 191 181 44 3.25 [32][33]
Lyons, TedTed Lyonsdagger 1923 1946 594 260 230 23 3.67 [34][35]
Moren, LewLew Moren 1903 1910 141 48 57 3 2.95 [1][36]
Niekro, JoeJoe Niekro 1967 1988 702 221 204 16 3.59 [37][38]
Niekro, PhilPhil Niekrodagger 1964 1987 864 318 274 29 3.35 [39][40]
Niggeling, JohnnyJohnny Niggeling 1938 1945 184 64 69 0 3.22 [41][42]
Papai, AlAl Papai 1948 1955 88 9 14 4 5.37 [43][44]
Purkey, BobBob Purkey 1954 1966 386 129 115 9 3.79 [45][46]
Sparks, SteveSteve Sparks 1995 2004 270 59 76 3 4.88 [47][48]
Wakefield, TimTim Wakefield 1992 2011 547 200 178 22 4.30 [49][50]
Wilhelm, HoytHoyt Wilhelmdagger 1952 1972 1070 143 122 227 2.52 [51][52]
Wolff, RogerRoger Wolff 1941 1947 182 52 69 13 3.41 [53][54]
Wood, WilburWilbur Wood 1961 1978 651 164 156 57 3.24 [55][56]
Zink, CharlieCharlie Zink 2008 2008 1 0 0 0 16.62 [57][58]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • The (Mostly) Complete List of Knuckleball Pitchers lists approximately 85 individuals on a list of Knuckleball Pitchers, based on Rob Neyer's definition, which includes any pitcher "who would not have been in the majors without his knuckleball, or whose knuckleball was considered his best pitch, at least for a time." An additional 85 or so individuals are listed as having "Used the Knuckleball as a Regular Pitch", which includes those who didn't make the first list, but "regularly tossed up a knuckler as part of their standard repertoire." Both lists include a handful of non-pitchers who used the knuckleball in some extremely limited circumstances.
  • McGrath, Ben. "PROJECT KNUCKLEBALL", The New Yorker, May 17, 2004. Accessed April 13, 2009.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b James, Bill; and Neyer, Rob. "The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers", via Google Books, p. 40. Simon & Schuster, 2004. ISBN 0-7432-6158-5. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  2. ^ Effrat, Louis. "WILHELM SCORES OVER DITMAR, 3–2; Breeding and Woodling Bat In Oriole Runs in 5th to Conquer Yankees", The New York Times, May 28, 1960. Accessed May 4, 2009.
  3. ^ Bolster, John. "The dying art of the knuckleball", Sports Illustrated, June 27, 2008. Accessed April 14, 2009.
  4. ^ a b Barra, Allen (May 26, 2003). "Baseball; 300-Victory Club Becomes Tougher to Join". The New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Tigers purchase Gene Bearden". Eugene Register-Guard. April 27, 1951. p. 6. 
  6. ^ Gene Bearden, Baseball-Reference. Accessed September 13, 2012.
  7. ^ Boswell, Thomas. "Daniel Boone's kin pitching for Orioles", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 31, 1990. Accessed April 14, 2009.
  8. ^ Danny Boone, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 4, 2009.
  9. ^ Staff. "Twelve Books of 1970", The New York Times, December 6, 1970. Accessed April 14, 2009.
  10. ^ Jim Bouton, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 4, 2009.
  11. ^ Effrat, Louis. "Bomber's 14-Hit Assault Helps Sturdivant Rout Athletics, 10–1; Mantle Poles 19th Homer of Year for Yanks in 8th-- Bauer Extends Streak Single Scores Berra First-Inning Dispute", The New York Times, June 15, 1957. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  12. ^ Wally Burnette, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 4, 2009.
  13. ^ Staff. "Dodgers Sign Candiotti, Hershiser; Moves Come as Morgan Departs for Cubs, $12.5 Million Deal", The Washington Post, December 4, 1991. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  14. ^ Tom Candiotti, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 4, 2009.
  15. ^ Bolster, John. "The dying art of the knuckleball", Sports Illustrated, June 27, 2008. Accessed April 14, 2009.
  16. ^ Eddie Cicotte, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 4, 2009.
  17. ^ Staff. "Notebook | R.A. Dickey knuckles way into rotation", The Seattle Times, June 13, 2008. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  18. ^ R.A. Dickey, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 4, 2009.
  19. ^ Staff. "Glavine, Smoltz Stop Giants, 1–0", Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2002. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  20. ^ Jared Fernandez, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 4, 2009.
  21. ^ Staff. [1]
  22. ^ [2], Baseball-Reference. Accessed January 16, 2014.
  23. ^ via Associated Press. "HAEFNER AWAITS WAIVERS; Still on Senators' Suspended List as White Sox Seek Him", The New York Times, July 16, 1949. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  24. ^ Mickey Haefner, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 4, 2009.
  25. ^ Van Dyck, Dave. "Strained groin could keep Thome on bench", Chicago Tribune, June 3, 2006. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  26. ^ Charlie Haeger, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 4, 2009.
  27. ^ Jesse Haines, Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum . Accessed April 13, 2009.
  28. ^ McGowen, Deane. "Jesse Haines, Pitcher, Dies at 85; Hall of Famer Won 210 Games; Known for Knuckleball", The New York Times, August 7, 1978. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  29. ^ Jesse Haines, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 4, 2009.
  30. ^ Kurkjian, Tim. "Florida's Aflutter: Old knuckleballer Charlie Hough showed the new Marlins and their boisterous fans how to win on the first Opening Day in the Sunshine State", Sports Illustrated, April 12, 1993. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  31. ^ Charlie Hough, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 5, 2009.
  32. ^ Staff. "Streetcar Series", Time (magazine), October 9, 1944. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  33. ^ Dutch Leonard, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 5, 2009.
  34. ^ Amore, Dom. "TWO MINORS IN HISTORY ; ASTROS, WHITE SOX: FORGETTABLE PASTS", Hartford Courant, October 21, 2005. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  35. ^ Ted Lyons, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 5, 2009.
  36. ^ Lew Moren, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 5, 2009.
  37. ^ Goldstein, Richard. "Joe Niekro, a Master of the Knuckleball, Is Dead at 61", The New York Times, October 29, 2006. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  38. ^ Joe Niekro, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 6, 2009.
  39. ^ Phil Niekro, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  40. ^ Phil Niekro, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 6, 2009.
  41. ^ Fullteron, Hugh Jr. via Associated Press. "Sports Roundup", Prescott Evening Courier, January 16, 1948. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  42. ^ Johnny Niggeling, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 6, 2009.
  43. ^ Bettendorf, Elizabeth. "PITCHER PAPAI MADE BATTERS KNUCKLE UNDER", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 28, 1993. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  44. ^ Al Papai, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 6, 2009.
  45. ^ Staff. "Knuckleballer Bob Purkey dead at 78", United Press International, March 10, 2008. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  46. ^ Bob Purkey, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 6, 2009.
  47. ^ Borzi, Pat. "CLEMENS NOT ENOUGH FOR SOX MILWAUKEE'S KNUCKLEBALLER STEVE SPARKS STYMIES THE STUMBLING RED SOX, 9–1.", Maine Sunday Telegram, June 18, 1995. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  48. ^ Steve Sparks, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 11, 2009.
  49. ^ via Associated Press "Oh so close for Wakefield: Knuckleballer's no-hit effort stopped in 9th", The Dallas Morning News, June 20, 2001. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  50. ^ Tim Wakefield, Baseball-Reference. Accessed May 11, 2009.
  51. ^ [3], Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum . Accessed October 9, 2011.
  52. ^ via Baseball-Reference. [4]. Accessed October 9, 2011.
  53. ^ via Associated Press. "TRUMAN TO TOSS FIRST BALL TODAY; President Sets Record as Only White House Southpaw for Senators-Red Sox Opening", The New York Times, April 16, 1946. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  54. ^ Roger Wolff, Baseball-Reference. Accessed July 2, 2010.
  55. ^ Smith, Tim Alan. "Wilbur Wood, Knuckleballer", Sports Illustrated, December 24, 2001. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  56. ^ Wilbur Wood, Baseball-Reference. Accessed July 2, 2010.
  57. ^ Robinson, Joshua. "A Knuckleballer Is Waiting to Rise", The New York Times, June 17, 2008. Accessed April 13, 2009.
  58. ^ Charlie Zink, Baseball-Reference. Accessed July 2, 2010.