Friday, April 1, 2011

Knuckler by Tim Wakefield (Woo-Hoo! Opening Day!)

I received a galley of this novel from NetGalley for review. This in no way affected my opinions.

I'm so excited! Today is opening day for baseball!

I know what you're thinking: "But Christy, yesterday was opening day!"

To which I would say: "Perhaps for other folks, but not for me!"

Today is the first official game of the 2011 season for the Boston Red Sox, and I am celebrating by posting my review of Tim Wakefield's - the longest-serving Sox player - book!

I didn't know what to expect when I started reading Knuckler. While I am a hardcore Red Sox fan, I have to admit, I know little about Tim Wakefield. I knew that he started his career in Pittsburgh and he was a knuckleballer. That's it.

Reading Knuckler gave me a whole new appreciation for Wakefield. For me, as a Sox fan, he was always there, for better or worse. He stuck it out and showed determination, but as I worked my way through Knuckler, I had no idea just how much.

In Knuckler we follow Tim from his college days to Pittsburgh's minor league system, where he was basically shuffled around. Wakefield was an infielder, he was a hitter. He only threw the knuckleball during practices, but never in seriousness. Turns out, the knuckleball was going to end up being the one thing that kept him in baseball. He was basically given a choice, focus on the knuckleball, or go home.

From his rise as a star on the Pirates, to winding up on the Red Sox, Wakefield shares, due to managers and pitching coaches not understanding the knuckleball, his struggles from being tossed around. From the starting rotation to the bullpen, sometimes managers undervalued the knuckleball, seeing it as the bottom of the totem pole as far as pitches went. Sometimes he was thrown in the bullpen only to clean up other people's messes. He often sacrificed his own ERA for the good of the team, going into games on short rest in order to rest the bullpen or to give the team some much needed pitching.

And after game seven in the 2003 ALCS, Wakefield thought he was going to be another Bill Buckner, but he soon learned that Boston and its fans valued him and were still rooting for him. He had his chance at redemption the following year, along with starting game one of the World Series and a World Series Championship. Another championship came in 2007 and in 2009 he made his first ever All Star Game Appearance at age 42. And just recently, he won the Roberto Clemente Award, being the first ever Red Sox to do so.

Throughout his years in baseball, Wakefield thought he was often overlooked because he was a knuckleballer, but it turned out that people took more notice than he thought. He's become a permanent staple on the Red Sox and is going to stick around until he's tossed out.