Tampa Bay Sports Day

Knuckleball Still Dickey’s Best Pitch

A recent series on the MLB channel attempted to find “The Next Knuckler,” inspired, no doubt, by the tremendous success of R.A. Dickey last season as he won a career-high 20 games and earned his first Cy Young Award at the age of 37.

The contestants in that unique elimination-element “game show” likely did their initial research by watching, “Knuckleball,” the feature-length documentary which premiered on the big screen in limited runs last summer, and is now available on DVD.

The 85-minute film should be required viewing by any pitcher, really, and we highly recommend any baseball fan should do so as well. The entertaining documentary by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg stands as a wonderful tribute to the art of the knuckleball – which is really a misnomer, as the pitch is controlled by fingernails and fingertips, not knuckles – as it goes beyond profiling just the former Met and now Blue Jay Dickey. Former Red Sox hurler Tim Wakefield is also detailed, and his mastery of the elusive pitch. Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, who rode the knuckleball all the way into Cooperstown, and another member of the knuckleball clan, Tom Candiotti, serve as “special guest stars” and golf buddies when all four knucklers get together for some time on the links.

Interestingly, the film followed Dickey throughout his 2011 season, not last year’s Cy Young season, and Wakefield during his last year in the big leagues the same campaign. Their baseball careers, as well as their home life are chronicled, with their triumphs and sacrifices a fascinating examination.

The critics agreed.

The New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger declared “Knuckleball” “A first-rate documentary in any season.” The Boston Globe labeled it “a must for baseball fans.” Andrew O’Hehir went online and claimed “Knuckleball” “immediately leaps near the top of the list of greatest baseball documentaries.”

High praise indeed. Add these words to the kudos collection: You’ll eagerly recommend the experience to all other baseball fans you meet.

“Knuckleball” is available on DVD on April 2 ($24.98 retail), the day after the first day of the 2013 season, and the day after Dickey’s first start for Toronto. The DVD goes beyond the theatre release with nearly two hours of featurettes, including additional interviews and other material.