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At forty-four years old, Tim Wakefield is the longest-serving member of one of baseball’s most popular franchises. He is close to eclipsing the winning records of two of the greatest pitchers to have played the game, yet few realize the full measure of his success. That his career can be characterized by such words as dependability and consistency defies all odds because he has achieved this with baseball’s most mercurial weapon—the knuckleball.
Knuckler is the story of how a struggling position player bet his future on a fickle pitch that would define his career. The pitch may drive hitters crazy, but how does the pitcher stay sane? The moment Wakefield adopted the knuckleball, his career sought to answer that question. With the Red Sox, Wakefield began to master his pitch only to find himself on the mound in 2003 for one of the worst post-season losses in history, followed the next year by one of the most vindicating of championships. Even now, as Wakefield battles, we see the twists and turns of a major league career pushed to its ultimate extreme.
A remarkable story of one player’s success despite being the exception to every rule, Knuckler is also a lively meditation on the dancing pitch, its history, its mystique, and all the ironies it brings to bear.
The unpredictable knuckleball pitch shares the spotlight with the Boston Red Sox pitcher Wakefield in this book on one of the most enduring, determined hurlers in pro ball. Following a smart foreword by Phil Niekro, one of the master knucklers, Wakefield, a Red Sox pitcher since 1995 and winner of two World Series, explains how an immature Florida boy who struggled to make any team developed into an ace with a knuckleball that "floats in slow motion," giving batters fits. He credits those who went before him, such as Hoyt Wilhelm, Phil and Joe Niekro, Charlie Hough, and Wilbur Wood, with setting the standard that enabled him to record more outs than any previous Red Sox pitcher. The book, with able support by sports columnist Massarotti, depicts Wakefield as a "really decent person" on and off the field, but it reveals occasional blowups in the dugout with coaches and players, and the difficult times with a madcap prima donna like Manny Ramirez. Competent and entertaining, Wakefield's book is one to savor, especially for the stat-obsessed baseball fan and the novice pitcher in search of a knuckleball to call his own.