Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Knuckle Ball Hero
Hoyt Wilhelm is one of my heroes. He played for nine Major League Baseball teams: his clubs included the New York Giants (1952-56), Baltimore Orioles (1958-62), Chicago White Sox (1963-68), and spells with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, California Angels, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Wilhelm was best known for his knuckleball, which enabled him to have great longevity; occasionally as a starting pitcher, but mainly as a specialist relief man. Hoyt was an extremely durable and effective relief pitcher. Hoyt Wilhelm once said: "I don't even try to fool anybody. I just throw the knuckleball 85 to 90 percent of the time. You don't need variations, because the damn ball jumps around so crazily, it's like having a hundred pitches."
Hoyt was a special player with an incredible specialty. Hoyt’s ability to throw a knuckleball made him one of the all time great relief pitchers. He went with what he had and enjoyed a wonderful career in the process. In my book though, Hoyt was one of those rare people in this world who are destined for greatness.
Consider some of his lifetime highlights:
• Before he even got a chance to play professional baseball he earned a Purple Heart, having been injured in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII.
• He hit a home run in his first at bat as a major leaguer in 1952.
• He was named an All Star in his second season in the majors.
• In 1954, he became a World Series Champion with the New York Giants.
• In 1958 he pitched a no-hitter against the New York Yankees (who went on to win the World Series).
• He pitched his last game just 16 days short of his fiftieth birthday in July of 1972.
• He was named into the Hall of Fame in 1985.
Sadly, the world lost Hoyt Wilhelm in 2002 at the age of 90.
Hoyt had what heroes always have. They believe in themselves and in their own unique ability.