Knuckleball! A Baseball Documentary Recommendation From Someone Who Doesn’t Follow Baseball

A few days ago, I came across this mesmerizing .gif of a knuckleball pitch, as thrown by R.A. Dickey (I love how both the batter and the catcher seem to be surprised at what the ball is doing). Following a few comments on MetaFilter, I wound up hearing about a documentary entitled Knuckleball!

I should say this right now – I’m not a sports guy. I get the mechanics and most of the rules, but just never really got into sports. I attended a Cubs game once upon a time, circa 2001, and found that I greatly enjoyed the game in person as opposed to on the television. But beyond that, I’ve just never really got into sports – baseball or otherwise.

But something about this pitch got my interest, and on finding a trailer for the documentary… I got hooked. Here’s the opening lines from the film’s website:

Knuckleball! is the story of a few good men, a handful of pitchers in the entire history of baseball forced to resort to the lowest rung on the credibility ladder in their sport: throwing a ball so slow and unpredictable that no one wants anything to do with it.

The 2012 documentary follows the personal and professional lives of the last two professional knuckleball pitchers: Tim Wakefield (a seventeen year veteran of the Red Sox) and R.A. Dickey (an up-and-coming pitcher for the Mets).

There are two big distinctions between a knuckleball pitch, versus those that other professional pitchers use: speed and rotation. While some pitchers can throw upwards of over 100 mph, a knuckleball will typically land in the 60-70 mph range (or even slower).

And while other pitches rely heavily on a lot of spin (I’m thinking of the curveball or the slider), the goal of a knuckleball is to have as little spin as possible (or limit it to 1/4 to 1 rotation). Which is much easier said than done.

One of my favorite lines from the film comes from Phil Niekro:

Learn how to accept losses without being defeated.

These words come at a pivotal moment in the film, but they’re also just lovely on their own. I’ve been turning this phrase over and over in my head the past day or so, rolling it around, repeating it. It’s just a great sequence of words.

I found the documentary, as a non-sports guy, totally engaging. It’s available on Netflix for streaming, as well as a few other places. Or you can also just buy the DVD for under $10.

On watching this via Netflix Streaming, Liz ended up watching it with me. And I think it’s fair to say that she’s also not a sports person, and she also got engrossed in the film (we stayed up past midnight to finish it).

Two things I’ll also add, that seem worth mentioning: on watching the film’s intro, I thought to myself “Wow, that’s a really well-done intro.” And on more than one occasion, I found myself thinking how great the audio work in the documentary was.

These are not normal thoughts that I have, when watching any kind of film. So I’m adding this in there to highlight the fact that I think this was a really, really well made doc. Highly recommended – give it a spin.

Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

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This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Found a pretty fun video of R.A. Dickey on Letterman, where he talks a bit more about the knuckleball (and throws the ball around with Dave).

    avoision Reply

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