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When I first heard that a documentary film was coming out about the
knuckleball, it seemed a little odd. How would you fill a
feature-length movie with an examination of a non-rotating baseball
pitch? Well, producers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg have done itand
in the process created one of the most entertaining sports
documentaries in years.
The reason is that it's not just about the knuckleballit's about the struggles of the very few men who have tried to master it in the big leagues. Just as the pitch itself is unpredictable, so were the careers of Tim Wakefield, R.A. Dickey, Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough and Belmont's own Wilbur Wood. The film focuses on Wakefield and Dickey, but it also tells the tale of the camaraderie among all the knucklersand the responsibility they all feel to the legacy of the pitch that made their dreams come true.
This is more than a baseball movie, it's a movie about not giving up. As Phil Niekro told Tim Wakefield early in his career, "Accept your losses, but never accept defeat." We recommend this movie highlyfour stars!
Knuckleball tells the story of baseball pitchers Tim Wakefield of the
Red Sox and R.A. Dickey of the Mets as they go through the travails of
the 2011 Major League Baseball season. In the process, viewers gain
insight into the mechanics, the lore, and the history of the fluxiest
of baseball pitches.
Wakefield in particular comes across as a likable straight-shooter who developed this pitch to salvage his hopes of making it to and staying in the Bigs. Dickey follows in the footsteps of Wake, and seems poised to carry the torch for knucklers into the 21st century. With great interviews and insights from Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro, and Jim Bouton, we learn that knuckleball pitchers are a small, proud fraternity who pass their wisdom down the line to keep the art of the knuckleball alive in an age of flamethrowers and the need for speed.
The art and chaos of the pitch itself lends itself well to the big screen, and for baseball fans and for anyone who loves to root for the underdog, Knuckleball definitely delivers.
Was lucky enough to catch this at the world premier free screening at
the Tribeca Film Festival last Saturday.
Really enjoyed its interesting and heart warming story telling about the rare baseball bread of the knuckleball pitcher. Both looking back and looking forward the film brought the story of this select band of pitchers beautifully to the screen.
R.A Dickey... such a class guy and there is something quite touching that he is the only knuckleballer left in the MLB. And you couldn't wish for a better champion of the 'freak' pitch.
Would happily watch it again. Congrats to all those involved.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*Spoiler/plot- Knuckelball, 2012. Follows the odd throwing pattern of
Major League pitchers.
*Special Stars- Tim Wakefield.
*Theme- Practice makes perfect.
*Emotion- An interesting and well developed film covering this interesting subject for baseball fans. Enjoyable and tells the human costs and pain of using this pitching style in the leagues. Shows an unvarnished and truthful account of the tricks, gimmicks, strategy, and problems to players if they wish to use this very special and deadly pitching asset against major league hitters.
This is an interesting documentary for baseball fans. Much of the
iconic attributions to baseball's knuckle-ballers has been made before
by sportscasters during games, but this is fun to watch nonetheless.
The movie focuses on two pitchers in 2011, Tim Wakefield, and R.A.
Dickey. I believe Dickey is still pitching in 2013 for the Blue Jays.
There is a tendency in documentary filmmaking to include too much footage, and "Knuckleball" is no different. The documentary jumps back and forth in time rather than follow a chronological order. The same crowd shots are used multiple times. There is footage of the pitchers driving around in cars. There is a lot of game footage of the two pitchers which becomes tiresome after an hour. Just when you think there is going to be some breakthrough or change of pace in the film, it lapses back into footage from the mid 2000's. There is excessive coverage of the Red Sox-Yankees series.
This movie would be good for people who aren't familiar with pitching styles or the history of the famous knuckle-ballers in baseball.
There are entertaining interviews with Niekro, Hough, and Wilbur Wood.
In short, this documentary is about 15 minutes too long. It is a good bet for serious baseball fans.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I found this documentary, directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, to
be an interesting look at the rare breed of baseball knuckleball
pitchers. I would say the appeal of the film is probably limited though
to baseball fans, or sports fans in general.
It focuses predominantly on the two remaining knuckleballers, at the time the movie was made, Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey. It was quite interesting for me to learn this type of pitcher is regarded as the "red haired step-child" of their team. They are indeed a small and exclusive club, in both the present and past. They seemingly all try to help each other with pitch mechanics, confidence, and general support.
Some of the outstanding knuckleballers of the past, such as Hall of Famer Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough, whom I remember pitching the home opener for the new franchise Florida Marlins, in 1993, are shown interacting and helping Wakefield and Dickey. Other former pitchers such as Jim Bouton and Wilbur Wood are interviewed for the movie, as well as various baseball writers and bloggers.
For me, I was rather fascinated as the film described the mechanics of the knuckleball, how it has no spin, how it's held by the pitcher, and how it possesses a trajectory where the hurler usually doesn't even know where it's going. Also, how the speed of the ball is so much slower than the other major league pitches that the hitters are often fooled by it.
The individual stories of both Wakefield and Dickey are quite compelling. Of course, Wakefield retired from baseball in 2012, after achieving his 200th major league win. That left only Dickey as the sole knuckleballer in the majors. He was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, from the N.Y. Mets for the 2013 season.
Even though I've been a baseball fan since I was a kid, I still learned a lot from this film and would recommend it to those that like insider sports info.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you like baseball, you'll like this movie. If you like small films,
you'll like this movie. If you like likable people, you'll like this
movie. Knuckleball is a wonderful little film.
The drama of Wakefield's triumph in game 5 of the 2004 American League Championship Series is the only thing I'd wish were more prominently treated here. (Enduring through THREE passed balls in the 13th inning, with no runs allowed? Epic!) But what stands is a warmly entertaining homage to the best of baseball, the best of baseball players, and the best benefit of simple human faith.
Most rewarding are the extended conversations with Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough throughout, and the additional conversations with Jim Bouton, Wilbur Wood, and other past practitioners of baseball's "freak pitch". Interspersing the intimate and heartfelt conversations with R. A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield with game highlights and historical footage puts things in even better emotional perspective.
If only the filmmakers had opportunity to highlight Dickey's transcendent 2012 season, and not just Wakefield's retirement press conference from this year. The torch hasn't just been passed, it's shining brighter than anyone could have predicted. Wake's 1992 Rookie of the Year pitching performance was great--but Dickey's most recent has been phenomenal. All because this tight-knit and loyal fraternity of pitchers has selflessly shared everything they know so that someone else might continue on ahead and do the same for those who come after. The movie does a wonderful job of capturing the joy of it, and the wonder.
A thoroughly enjoyable film.
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