Pirates History: Tim Wakefield Wins Battle of Knuckleballers

The knuckleballer is a dying breed in the MLB, with just a handful of pitchers still utilizing the offering. That was true back in 1992, when on this day, Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Tim Wakefield matched up against Tom Canidotti of the Dodgers in the rare matchup between knuckleballers.

It had been ten years since two knuckleballers faced off against one another in the National League before Tim Wakefield and Tom Candiotti matched up. Although they were not the rarity they are these days, knuckleballers were still an endangered species in the MLB, with a scant handful plying their trade.

This day, fans of the knuckler were treated to a rare matchup. Rookie Tim Wakefield, in just his sixth career start, faced down veteran Tom Candiotti, an old knuckleball practitioner. In a sign that the future of the position was in good hands, Wakefield and the Pirates defeated the Dodgers 2-0.

In his first career shutout, Wakefield scattered six hits, striking out three while issuing two walks. He even helped out his own cause, picking off two Dodgers baserunners. Candiotti, in his own right, pitched well, allowing only two runs on nine hits and a walk in his six innings of work. Yet, for as well as Candiotti performed, Wakefield was just better on this day.

It was another of a series of stellar starts to mark Wakefield’s career. He would go 8-1 with a 2.15 ERA and a 1.207 WHiP, finishing third in the Rookie of the Year vote. He would leave Pittsburgh after two seasons, becoming an icon in Boston. There, with the Red Sox, Wakefield would finish his career in 2011 with exactly 200 victories while becoming a fan favorite.

There may not be many knuckleballers in the Majors any longer, but one of the best of the modern era showed what he was capable of. The future of the position was bright indeed, as Pirates rookie Tim Wakefield proved in the 2-0 victory.