As the "boys of summer" will not be taking the field anytime soon.
The pitcher most associated with the knuckleball was Eddie "Knuckles" Cicotte, who played from 1905 to 1920. According to baseball lore, Knuckles began using his knuckles for better performance. When thrown well, the knuckleball has little if any spin. This creates seams over parts of the ball resulting in the ball changing directions, including corkscrewing, as it travels to the catcher's mitt. If the pitcher is on, the level of difficulty increases significantly for everyone; batter, catcher, and umpire. The pitch is nearly impossible to hit, difficult to catch, and call for balls and strikes. When a knuckleball pitcher is off, it can be a short outing for him and batting practice along with a speed workout for the opposition.
As I think of the challenges organizations, teams, and individuals face these days, I believe those who have experienced a well-thrown knuckleball have wisdom for us all.
"You don't catch a knuckleball; you defend against it." ― Dodger manager and former catcher Joe Torre
Application – anticipate where you need to be to receive business because it is not going to come to you in the same way as it has in the past. Worse yet, if you miss an opportunity, it may result in advancing your competition.
"I never worry about it. I just take my three swings and go sit on the bench. I'm afraid if I ever think about hitting it, I'll mess up my swing for life." ― All-star first baseman Dick Allen
Application – do not let the economy dictate your response. Rather, make the best decision you can and move on.
"I always thought the knuckleball was the easiest pitch to catch. Wait till it stops rolling, then go to the backstop and pick it up." ― broadcaster and former catcher Bob Uecker
Application – humor is an effective coping mechanism. Particularly in uncertain times.
"There are two theories on hitting a knuckleball. Unfortunately, neither of them works." ― famed hitting coach Charlie Lau
Application – Conventional wisdom may be of little value in these uncertain times.
"If it's high, let it fly. If it's low, let it go." ― common saying describing how to approach hitting the knuckleball.
Application – have a plan and know the opposition has a say in the outcome.
"For a knuckleballer, a pitch count of 150 is not a problem – unless it's the first inning." ― Dave Clark, author of The Knucklebook
Application – versatility is underrated and strengths can be overrated.
"Hitting Phill Niekro's knuckleball is like eating soup with a fork." ― Riche Hebner
Application – it will take more effort, focus, and patience to receive the same or even lower gains than in the past.
"Knuckleballs suck." ― Gen Petralli after giving up four passed balls in one inning