Can you throw a knuckleball?

I was just playing catch with my youngest. For grins, I tried doing a few knuckleballs. I have tried doing it for years, and even though I can almost get the ball to stop rotating, I have never thrown anything more than a weak sinking pitch.

I assume that it’s because I’m throwing at too short of distances, but has anyone here actually thrown a knuckleball that danced?

I’ve never even met anyone who could do it.

The knuckleball must be thrown fairly hard to have a significant break to it - 60 MPH at least, I’d guess. That’s amazingly slow by the standard of professional ballplayers, but for most adult males that’s about as hard as they can throw.

There was a guy on a slo-pitch team that I used to play on that could throw it. It was a bitch to do warm-up throws with him.

I throw like a girl. Actually like a girl who can’t throw.

Can a girl throw a knuckleball?

I can throw a somewhat decent one. Interesting story. When my father and uncle were very young they were chasing each other around the house. My father slammed the door trying to get away from my uncle and my uncle got his hand shut in the door. Apparently it cut off at least one of the tips of his fingers. Fast forward several years and he realized this allowed him to throw a heck of a knuckle ball. Mind you he was a heck of a baseball player anyway so I can’t say it was directly related, but he believed it to be so.

If I could just ever learn to throw a curveball or slider. I have had several people show me, but I just have never been able to figure out how to do it. I even pitched some when I was about 12. That was long before we learned how to throw any kind of special pitches. I always tried to throw my own version of a forkball, but it never really moved.

Here’s an interesting knuckleball how to video

That really isn’t how I throw mine though. I don’t use the fingertips. I actually dig in with the joint nearest my fingertips.

I was a fairly accomplished pitcher in HS, but I never could throw a knuckleball that consistently danced, and have only seen a couple of guys who could do so. One could do it with a baseball, another with a softball. Just trying catch a ball moving at 70+ mph in a completely unpredictable way is disconcerting enough-I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to try to hit the damned thing.

While I never made the HS baseball team(I tried out one year), I was pretty good at throwing an amazing knuckleball. I used the tips of my index and middle fingers, the first knuckle on my ring finger, and the inside of my thumb. It seemed pretty natural. I had a friend who tried to catch me(we practiced a lot). It danced pretty good IMHO. I haven’t a clue as to how much speed I could have gotten out of it. Makes me wish I could have done it with some HS players.

I could throw a good knuckleball in HS, but I was a catcher and being able to throw a strike to second base was a much more valuable skill. I’d honestly be surprised if any knuckleballer has ever been drafted from High School, as most highschoolers could hit a knuckleball much easier than a minor league quality fastball.

I could spend alot of paragraphs expounding on why that is, but it boils down to bat speed. They can’t get around on a fastball at all, but have a chance at a dancing slow baseball.

I’ll wager that most knuckleballers, prior to, oh say, 1980, didn’t come into the Majors pitching a knuckleball. They developed it when the got older, and they couldn’t pitch their usual game.

I don’t know about this specific statement, but knuckleballers do tend to be on the verge of washing out before they pick it up. I remember one teams farm system had a coach who would work with pitchers who were about to be cut, just to see if they had the ‘knack’. Sort of gimicky last chance to stay on the team/make the big leagues.

A curveball is more complicated, since you have to ‘flick’ your wrist while delivering the pitch; a slider is relatively easy-sure the grips vary, but the pitch itself is thrown by turning your wrist approximately 90 degrees from a normal or fastball delivery. Throwing a fastball, your wrist/fingers are oriented (roughly) as though you were trying to push two separate elevator buttons simultaneously (or gouge someone in the eyes); for a slider your wrist is positioned as though you were trying about to pick up a glass of water (with your two forefingers pressed together). Nearly anyone who has played much can get recognizable spin doing this; most people can’t get it to break noticeably, however, because this requires they increase the speed of rotation of the ball-which means throwing it hard.

Well I’m glad that I’m not the only one who can’t make a knuckleball dance. I’m not that fast of a pitcher and besides I’m throwing to kids, so the ball probably isn’t going fast enough to have a chance. All the same, I wish that I could. I remember Jim Bouton’s story about how the first knuckleball that he threw as a kid hit the catcher in the face mask.

“Like some cult religion that barely survives, there has always been at least one but rarely more than five or six devotees throwing the knuckleball in the big leagues… Not only can’t pitchers control it, hitters can’t hit it, catchers can’t catch it, coaches can’t coach it, and most pitchers can’t learn it. The perfect pitch.” -Ron Luciano, former AL umpire

Does this sum it up?

Not just “couldn’t pitch their usual game”. Tim Wakefield of the Red Sox was drafted as an infielder.

What this guy is saying is basically this - A major league hitter will identify a pitch, where he anticipates it will cross the plate, and begin his swing all in a couple tenths of a second. Once the decision is made to swing, there is no turning back. A knuckleball can change directions randomly, but the batter can’t adjust his swing to the new location that the ball is going to.

What I was saying is that 90% of high school batters would have a better chance of hitting Tim Wakefield than they would a AA pitcher, even though Wakefield is major league starter, simply because they could get the bat around on Wakefield.

Right. High school hitters are going around slowly enough to adjust. The pros can’t afford to do that. There’s not enough time.

This reminds me of Bob Uecker’s advice on how to catch a knuckleball:

“Wait until it stops rolling, then pick it up.”

I would agree. The first “young” knuckleballer I can think of is Tim Wakefield.

Steve Sparks was a young knuckleballer for the Milwaukee Brewers in the mid 1990s and then I think he went to the Tigers.

EDIT: Actually he had a few stops in between, found his wiki entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Sparks

And to answer the OP, I can throw a wicked Wiffle knuckleball!