Canadians are going to learn more about the “knuckleball” today than they ever wanted to know and were afraid to ask.
The hopes of a nation hang on a pitch that is at best described as a “eating soup with a fork.”
Put a little too much spin on the ball or throw it just a little too fast and you’re basically serving up a batting-practice pitch that the hitter can feast on.
Former Pittsburg Pirate, Willie Stargell said, “Throwing a knuckleball for a strike is like throwing a butterfly with hiccups across the street into your neighbor’s mailbox.”
A knuckleball catcher says, “Catching the knuckleball, it’s like trying to catch a fly with a chopstick.”
KNUCKLEHEAD or KNUCKLEBALL
A knuckleball pitcher can make a baseball manger look like a knucklehead for choosing him to pitch in the MOST important baseball game for Canada in 22 years.
Knuckleballers are a rarity. At any one time, only one or two are usually in the major leagues. “Why I Love Knuckleball Pitchers” is a great primer if you dare to know more.
R. A. Dickey is one of MLB’s best knuckleballers, may the best EVER.
In 2012, he became the first knuckleball pitcher in major league history to win the Cy Young Award. This season his numbers are on par with 2012.
Dickey digs into the leather with the nails of his index and middle fingers just behind the runway, where the ball’s seams are closest together; he places his thumb and ring finger on the sides of the ball. He keeps his nails even with a fine-tooth glass file and strong with the nail-hardening product Trind. Nails are a vital stabilizing force, enabling Dickey to release the ball with almost no spin.
Normal pitchers aim to generate maximum power by pushing hard off their back leg and hurtling laterally toward home plate. Dickey limits his leg push and keeps his body upright, turning until his shoulders are square to the plate. His step forward is short. “Economy and simplicity are what you’re after with the knuckleball.”
As Dickey moves his arm forward in front of his body he loosens his grip and lets the ball float off his fingertips with minimal rotational force. His knuckler can reach 84mph and it spins 180 degrees as it travels 60.5 feet.
The recognized greatness of his pitch is not the best thing about Dickey.
Dickey penned one of the more entertaining, affecting, and revelatory memoirs ever written by a baseball player – Wherever I Wind Up.
Life and faith will have well prepared him for his first post season performance.
Dickey has a strong basis for optimism, rooted not only in his team’s second-half surge but in his own, and in his experience throwing his knuckleball in the Texas heat and humidity, which usually improves the movement on the pitch.
If he can go 7 1/3 innings and give up only two runs the Jays have a chance to head back to the center of the Universe for game #5 on Wednesday.
This will be one for the ages.
APPLICATION: Go Jays!
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