Archive for category Knuckleballs

Have you gotten a Christmas gift for the sports lover in your family?

Well, Christmas is a couple of weeks away, so have you bought a gift yet for the sports lover in your family?

If not, then why not one of these two books?

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The hockey book is about the Boston-Montreal rivalry from 1988-1994, when the Bruins won five of the six series played between the two clubs, ending a streak of 18 consecutive playoff series losses to the Canadiens. Click to purchase this book here.

The baseball book is a biography of Tom Candiotti, the former knuckleball pitcher who pitched in the 1980s and 1990s. Candiotti won 151 major-league games and this book highlights his career. You can purchase this book here.

Get them for the sports lover in your family! 🙂

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This Day in Knuckleball History – May 15

It’s fun to look back sometimes at feats of knuckleball pitchers over the years… Here’s the May 15th edition of “This Day in Knuckleball History”:

On May 15, 1973, Phil Niekro earned career win #99 when he pitched a complete-game five-hitter to lead Atlanta to a 5-1 victory in Houston. In outpitching Astros right-hander Don Wilson, Niekro struck out six without walking a batter. Braves centerfielder Dusty Baker delivered a three-run homer in the sixth inning to break up the scoreless tie and give Niekro the win. (Incidentally, Baker wasn’t the only hitter in the Atlanta lineup that day who went on to become a big-league manager; Braves catcher Johnny Oates and second baseman Davey Johnson also went on to manage in the majors.) With the win, Niekro improved to 99-85 for his career with a 2.95 ERA.

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Things weren’t as good for Niekro four years later on May 15, 1977, when neither he nor future Cy Young winner John Denny was effective in a 15-12 Atlanta win over St. Louis. (Was this the Falcons against the old NFL St. Louis Cardinals?) Niekro was hammered for six runs over three innings, while Denny, who had won the NL ERA title the year before and would capture the Cy Young in 1983, was hit for four runs in only five innings. The Braves, who trailed 10-1 after four innings, rallied for three runs in the fifth, five in the sixth, and six more in the eighth to pull out the comeback win. Centerfielder Barry Bonnell’s three-run single (yup, that’s what the play-by-play account says) off righty John D’Acquisto in the bottom of the eighth, with the score tied 12-12, proved to be the game-winner.

On this date, May 15, in 1988, Charlie Hough gave up a leadoff homer to Willie Wilson (!!) and a grand slam later to Danny Tartabull, as the Kansas City Royals beat Texas 5-4. It turned out to be the only home run Wilson hit that year in 628 plate appearances. (I always assumed he never hit a lot of homers, if any, because I remember when he played for Oakland in 1991 and 1992, he hit exactly zero home runs.) Despite his lackluster performance that day (6 IP, 11 H, 4 R), Royals right-hander Mark Gubicza still got the win, his fourth of the season, en route to 20 victories in 1988. It would prove to be Gubicza’s best year, as he went 20-8 with a 2.70 ERA and finished third in the Cy Young race (behind Frank Viola and Dennis Eckersley). Hough, in 1988, would finish 15-16 even with a 3.32 ERA.

Finally, on May 15, 1996, Tom Candiotti retired 21 straight Montreal Expos in one stretch – the equivalent of seven perfect innings of baseball – as the Dodgers won, 7-2. Candiotti pitched a complete-game four-hitter, giving up just one walk, and both runs off of him were unearned thanks to second-inning errors by left-fielder Billy Ashley and shortstop Greg Gagne. From the second inning until two outs in the ninth, no Expos hitter reached base until David Segui doubled to right field. And this was an Expos team that included Moises Alou, Henry Rodriguez, Mike Lansing, and Mark Grudzielanek, and Montreal went on to finish two games out of the NL wild-card race.

There you have it, a look back at some of the performances by knuckleball pitchers on May 15th over the years… we’ll do it again next time.

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Candiotti interview with Seamheads.com & retro Hough video

Yes, we’re almost a month into the 2016 season and this is only the first post of the new campaign here on A Life of Knuckleballs! (I guess our coverage here is just like “The Baseball Network” way back when – haha.) Yes, we know that Steven Wright of the Red Sox has surprised quite a few people with his strong start to the season – albeit with a losing record of 1-2 despite his 1.40 ERA – and it’s no surprise to me personally that R.A. Dickey continues to struggle, but the first post of the year deals with a couple of knuckleball pitchers from the 1980s and 1990s.

And yes, I realize that it was 21 years ago this week that the Red Sox signed Tim Wakefield. But c’mon, he gets a lot of press – and has gotten plenty of accolades over the years – so I’ll take a pass on that one other than to mention this piece of history in one line.

What we’re going to do instead here in this first post is post an interview that Seamheads.com, which covers the Red Sox, did with Tom Candiotti this week. As mentioned near the end of the hour (after Candiotti left), the guys noted the ex-Indian and Dodger knuckleballer averaged only one wild pitch per 30 innings for his career – great control for a knuckleball pitcher.

And we pay tribute today too to Charlie Hough as he pitched the first game in Marlins history and beat Orel Hershiser and the Dodgers back in 1993:

We’ll post more stuff throughout the season, so catch up with you later!

 

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Another ‘vintage’ Candiotti start

I have to admit, listening to the Washington Nationals-New York Mets game on ESPN Radio through the first five innings or so on Easter Monday made me think back to the Oakland A’s-Boston Red Sox opener back in 1998.

In the Nationals-Mets game, it was 40-something Bartolo Colon (a former Athletic, by the way) becoming the oldest opening-day starter in Mets history. And it was him losing 1-0 in the middle innings despite pitching a very strong game. Colon’s mound opponent: Max Scherzer, who was making his Nationals regular-season debut and pitching a dominant shutout.

Ahhhhh…back in 1998, it was the 40-something Tom Candiotti becoming the oldest opening-day starting pitcher in Oakland history, losing 2-0 to Pedro Martinez, who was making his Red Sox debut and pitching a dominant game.[1] That night, it was a two-base error by second baseman Scott Spiezio in the fifth inning which led to Boston’s first run on a sacrifice fly. A couple of innings later, the A’s couldn’t turn a double play, and the Red Sox scored an insurance run on another sac fly (which would have been the third out had the A’s turned the DP moments earlier). Oakland did have a chance in the seventh, but Pedro struck out A.J. Hinch and Jason McDonald with runners in scoring position to escape the jam. Oh, by the way, Hinch was making his big-league debut and he had to hit against Martinez and catch Candiotti’s knuckleballs. Yikes.

But it was a moot point – in the Nationals game, the Mets scored three unearned runs off Scherzer, ensuring that Colon’s gem didn’t go to waste.

Speaking of A.J. Hinch having to catch knuckleballs in his first major-league game, check out this video of Andy Allanson and Ron Hassey having to catch Candiotti and Joe Niekro – and also bat against them – in a game from 1986. Candiotti’s first batter would be a sign of things to come for how wild this game turned out to be. Thanks to the YouTube user Classic MLB 11 for uploading it. (Hope it doesn’t get taken down.)

(This, by the way, was Candiotti’s fourth game in the majors throwing the knuckleball. Prior to that, he was a curveball-fastball pitcher.)

Have a fantastic baseball season, everyone!

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[1] There is a distinction here with Candiotti being the oldest starting pitcher for Oakland on Opening Day. In terms of opening-day player in the lineup, Reggie Jackson was the oldest player in Oakland history, as he was the DH back in 1987.

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UPDATE – DEC 13, 2017: YouTube did end up taking down that video. Here’s a clip of that Yankees-Indians game.

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Video of Candiotti pitching in 1993

Thanks to YouTube, we are able to once in a while come across rare videos uploaded by people just like you and me. I recently came across a video of Tom Candiotti pitching for the Dodgers in Philadelphia back in 1993, posted by a YouTube user called Classic Phillies TV. Thank you, CPTV!

Now, this wasn’t one of Candiotti’s best games, and most baseball fans will be more interested in seeing a young Pedro Martinez pitch a few innings late in the game. However, following this contest, one in which Candiotti fell to 0-3 with a 6.55 ERA through four starts, the knuckleballing Candy Man would then have a dominant four-month stretch that has since been forgotten. In his next 22 starts following this disaster in Philadelphia, Candiotti posted a minuscule 1.85 ERA and the Dodgers won 15 of those games. Unfortunately, Candiotti’s won-loss record wasn’t great because the Dodgers rarely gave him much support, resulting in a modest 8-2 record in those 22 outings, even with that 1.85 earned-run average. Included in that stretch was a 15-start undefeated streak which saw Candiotti go 5-0 with 10 no-decisions. One of his two losses in those 22 starts was a 2-0 defeat to Atlanta’s John Smoltz, where Candiotti gave up just one run – on four hits – in eight innings (the only run came on a sacrifice fly and then the Braves added that second run in the ninth inning off Pedro Martinez).

In the 22-start stretch after the Phillies game, here were Candiotti’s numbers:

155.2 IP, 122 H, 43 BB, 120 SO, 6 HR, .217 opposing BA

It’s pretty amazing given the fact that Candiotti threw a knuckleball and yet averaged under 2.5 walks per nine innings. And only six home runs given up in those innings with nearly a 3-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

That run actually gave Candiotti the National League ERA lead going into September, at a major league-best 2.43.

Thanks again, CPTV, for posting the video.

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