I’m a fan of NPR. Literally, I “Like” NPR on Facebook. That’s partly why I came across the above article an this afternoon. From a baseball fan’s perspective, that’s a little like asking, “Mariano Rivera’s Cutter Can Devastate, So Why Don’t All Pitchers Throw It?”
The article was spurred by Baltimore’s recent hiring of Hall of Fame Knuckleballer Phil Niekro to school three of its minor leaguers in the art of throwing the knuckleball. NPR follows the usual narrative we’ve seen - the knuckleball is finicky and can resurrect careers. Knuckleballers are rare, etc.
The reporter even consults Alan Nathan, a physics professor who runs The Physics of Baseball site. The article concludes that the knuckleball is both hard to actually pitch and comes with a stigma attached.
What it doesn’t mention is the truth.
That the knuckleball is like an ex - you pick things up when you’re down, and everything’s great. And then your tumultuous relationship throws you back into a pit of despair, but you remember the good times, and you stick it out. Sure enough, those seven inning, eight strikeout performances come back into the picture, and that four inning, ten run monstrosity form the previous week is forgotten.
That the knuckleball is solely responsible for the creation of the word “frenemy.”
That the knuckleball is like a gift from a race of superior beings who wanted to encapsulate the joys and hardships of playing and watching baseball into a single, beautiful pitch.
Outsiders - they just don’t get it.
See: R.A. Dickey