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Critic Reviews for Knuckleball!
Nonfans, however, are about to find out exactly what the phrase inside baseball means.
The sweet achievement of "Knuckleball!," Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's documentary about this quixotic pitch and the quixotic men who throw it, is that it gives both sides equal play.
With elements of "Moneyball" and a twist of the narrative arm, this look at how Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey became knuckleball experts is a real kick.
There's plenty of real drama in this movie without Stern and Sundberg having to pump it up.
Audience Reviews for Knuckleball!
While there there might be more informative documentaries than "Knuckleball!" it does have some good stories to tell that do not sugarcoat any of the pitchers' struggles while also stressing that baseball is more than just empty statistics, however gaudy they may be. In the case of Aroldis Chapman, extremely gaudy. At the other end of the velocity spectrum of pitchers comes quite possibility the last knuckleballers, Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey, who the documentary follows for the 2011 season. Since pitching is like real estate in that it is all about location, location and location, a knuckleball can be very effective despite its low relative velocity because not even the pitcher is sure of where it is exactly going. At its worst, the pitch does not move and you have batting practice which can give ulcers to managers and pink slips to pitchers. Explaining all of this well is knuckleball practitioners from the past including Jim Bouton and Tom Candiotti. And my favorite part of the documentary is a roundtable between Wakefield, Dickey, Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough, also a mentor to Dickey. While it is also fun to see old videos of the featured pitchers, the best part had yet to come for R.A. Dickey in his all-star 2012 season, just having won his 19th game of the season yesterday. That having been said, I would have liked to have seen more of the literature loving, subway riding and mountain climbing part of his personality that makes him sound so interesting.
Solid doc, gets the job done, so to speak. Wish it had gone more into why so feel pitchers try being knuckleballers (you'd think all of the washed up minor league pitchers would give it a shot to prolong their careers). This would be a good special for ESPN to air.
Profile the 2011 seasons of Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey, the only two pitchers currently in Major League Baseball who regularly throw the knuckleball pitch. Serendipitously, it turned out to be Wakefield final season after 19 years in baseball, 17 of them with the Boston Red Sox, and one in which he would win his 200th career game (a major milestone) before retiring at the end of the season. R.A. Dickey, at the age of 37 years, would have his breakout year as a major league starter with the New York Mets. He would win the Cy Young Award for the best pitcher in the National League the following season.
Filmmakers Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern made heavy use of game footage from the 2011 season. The film is much stronger when it tells Wakefield and Dickey's respective life stories, charting careers filled with ups and downs, in which the knuckleball saved them from obscurity, then and at times desert them. Dickey's opening-day start in 2011 went awry because he broke a fingernail; Wakefield looked to be washed up after a few good years in Pittsburgh, because he lost confidence in his main pitch. And both men had tough 2011s, with Dickey battling injuries and Wakefield losing six consecutive starts and briefly being relegated to the bullpen out before getting his 200th win.
What I like the most, however, was the larger context of the world of the knuckleball pitcher. The filmmakers do a great job of painting these guys are part of an exclusive club. There aren't a lot of knuckleballers, so they have to stick together. This camaraderie makes for some interesting scenes, particularly when Dickey and Wakefield hang out with retired knuckleball pitchers Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro, Wilbur Wood, Jim Bouton, and Tom Candiotti.
The movie is good for an inside look at the game, particularly these two men and how the pitch defines them. It's a must for baseball fans. The history is fascinating, the subjects are likable, and there's some genuine emotion in its concluding sections. Mostly enjoyable, you don't have to be a baseball fan to like this movie.
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