Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review of "Knuckler"

I picked up this book to pay off a bet.  A small but fun group of baseball book junkies of which I am a part of decided to place a wager on the World Series.  Each person who wished to participate would pick a team.  If that team LOST the World Series, then the person who picked them would have to read a book about the WINNING team and post a review.  I picked the Cardinals to win.  So, I had to find a Red Sox book that I thought would be interesting.  What could be more interesting than the story about a knuckleball pitcher, especially one who is beloved by Red Sox Nation?  I read this book and am now posting my review so my debt is officially paid off!  Enjoy this review of "Knuckler." 

“Knuckler: My Life with Baseball’s Most Confounding Pitch” by Tim Wakefield with Tony Massarotti

Baseball, autobiography, Red Sox

April 6, 2011

301 pages

2 1/2 of 5 stars (just okay)

At first I was very happy to see that there was a book written about Tim Wakefield, a player whose career defines perseverance.  Having set many of the team pitching records for the Boston Red Sox, I expected his autobiography to be rich with many stories about his ups and downs, the various roles he has played in his pitching career and maybe even a few personal insights.

Alas, it wasn't to be.  There were two glaring issues I had with the book while reading it.  One was that it wasn't written in the first person.  While autobiographies of celebrities are almost always written by a ghostwriter, they are at least told in the first person.  This book doesn't do that – the pitcher is always “Tim” or “Wakefield”, never “I” or “me.”  So that was problem number one.  

Problem number two, at least for me, was a trivial mistake, but one big enough that had me wondering where else I would find gaffes like this.  Wakefield was a member of the 1992 Pittsburgh Pirates team that lost a heartbreaking game 7 to the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series.   It is a highlight finish that was memorable for many reasons.  The section describing that winning play is actually well written except for one detail:  the batter who got the game winning hit was not “Fernando” Cabrerra as written in the book, but instead Francisco Cabrerra.  While that may seem small, I had this thought: if the writer couldn't get a memorable moment like that correct, what else could be wrong in this book?  While I didn't do a fact check on everything, it still seemed to take away from the book as a whole.

This isn't to say there weren't good parts to this book.  I enjoyed the sections about the nuances of the pitch, whether it was about how to throw it, how to catch it or how it moves in a crazy fashion.  I also liked some of the information on knuckle ball pitchers of the past such as Phil and Joe Niekro and Wilbur Wood.  However, what would have made those even better would have been more stories about them, not just a recap of their playing days.  

That same reporting style of writing was evident in the rest of the book as a large portion of it is devoted to the ups and downs of the Red Sox franchise during Wakefield’s time as a pitcher for them.  While it was somewhat fun to relive the historic comeback the Red Sox made against the New York Yankees in 2004, and uplifting to see Wakefield become such an iconic figure for the franchise, the book felt more like a Red Sox history lesson (and one that skims at that) than it did as a biography for Wakefield.  A disappointing read for me, but Red Sox fans might enjoy it for a brief historical perspective of the recent team history.

Did I skim?

Pace of the book: 
It moved along fine.  It never really dragged along or seemed too dry despite the lack of insight or personal stories.

Do I recommend? 
No, unless the reader wants to learn more about the nuances of the knuckleball.  That was the best part of the book.  But if the reader wants to learn about the Red Sox or Wakefield’s career as a whole, those can be found in other sources.

Book Format Read:
E-Book (Kindle)

Buying Links:


  1. Wow! I think that's your lowest rating thus far. That's one less book I don't have to read. Thanks you Lance

  2. Glad to help. Billing a book written in third person as an "autobiography" just felt wrong in so many ways.

  3. That does seem a bit strange for an autobiography to be in the third person. Thanks for posting your review.

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