Sometimes I really miss my baseball-loving father who died in 1992. Like today, when I picked up a copy of “The Knuckleball Club: The Extraordinary Men Who Mastered Baseball’s Most Difficult Pitch,” by Richard A. Johnson. He would’ve devoured this book, with several of its pages devoted to his hero, “the greatest hitter of all time,” Ted Williams.
A knuckleball is a pitch that’s “akin to swatting a fly with a blade of grass,” according to pitcher Pat Jordan.
Huntersville-born Hoyt Wilhelm was a knuckleball pitcher, and he gets a lot of ink here, as does Phil Niekro, a man my father – don’t ask me why – had no use for.
Johnson quotes the elegant baseball writer Roger Angell:
“The mystery of the knuckleball is ancient and honored. Its practitioners cheerfully admit that they do not understand why the pitch behaves the way it does: nor do they know, or care much, which particular lepidopteron path it will follow on its way past the batter’s infuriated swipe. They merely prop the ball on their fingertips ... and launch it more or less in the fashion of a paper airplane, and then, most of the time, finish the delivery with a faceward motion of the globe, thus hiding a grin.”