Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg have created a new baseball documentary entitled “Knuckleball!” and this one has a chance to be special.
We all know about knuckle ball pitchers like Mets ace R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield who are front and center in this film. Even though I have yet to see the completed product I did like the trailer and I’m excited that these pitchers with an “unusual” pitch are finally getting their due.
“We just work together,” said Stern. “We don’t always go on every shoot together. We talk to our director of photography about the style of the film and how we’re going to unfold it.”
You would think that both directors would have some sort of sports background before tackling this topic.
“Both Annie and I played a sport at times. We both went to Dartmouth,” said Ricki. “We weren’t huge baseball fans. Like any good American we enjoyed the game….My husband is from Boston, and even though we live in the city, it hasn’t been easy being Red Sox fans here. Before the World Series win they never would have worn a Red Sox hat on a subway.
“We jumped on the project within a couple of days after reading about it. We went down to spring training and shot the preeminent interview with R.A. We had to catch up very quickly on baseball and worked with MLB products and Christine Schomer (producer/writer) which helped.”
Dickey has a chance to win the Cy Young Award and no full-time knuckle ball pitcher has ever done that. Has the Mets hurler legitimized the pitch?
“I think it depends on who you ask. I think guys who played with Wakefield would say it was a legitimate pitch. There are guys who hate to bat against it so there is clearly a mixed bag. There is so much emphasis on the radar gun and the pitchers who throw hard get that big money. I think people now, maybe because of R.A. are now really attracted to the pitch,” Stern said.
If that was the thought the fact that Dickey didn’t get to start in this year’s all-star game showed the true ambiguity that comes with being a knuckle ball pitcher.
“We were disappointed that R.A. didn’t get that opportunity. It really is a pitch that is really distrusted. Even by managers. When things like that happen, and catchers can’t catch it, I think as knuckle ball fans it wasn’t unexpected,” said Sundberg. “I think R.A. true to his nature, is an incredible guy, was thrilled to be on the team and tried to take the heat off Posey. As far as R.A. was concerned he was really pleased to be there.”
At one point during the interview Ricki interjected and said to Annie that Tim Wakefield “wasn’t really Hall of Fame material because he didn’t have 300 wins and really didn’t have the numbers.” At that point they sounded like two passionate baseball fans!
I have already learned that all knuckle ball pitchers look out for each other like their own type of fraternity which is cool.
“They say it’s actually hard and tiring to pitch a game. Wakefield says throw a ball with your kid 100 times. As far as R.A. would say it doesn’t necessarily have the same wear on him. He wants to pitch full games I think,” said Ricki.
When I asked if she felt Dickey wanted to finish more games she reiterated, “Yeah I think so.”
The only conversation I had with him recently (around the time of the Tribecca premiere) is there is an honesty he has with his manager. I think there is that sense he wants to pitch more complete games but there is that honesty he has with his manager and he does tell Collins when he’s ready to come out,” said Annie.
The knuckle ball pitcher can pitch longer with more frequently more without as much damage,” said Ricki. “You don’t know when the pitch is declining because the pitcher is tired or his touch is off. I think you do have to rely on the pitcher to tell his manager.”
“Charlie Hough, Tom Candiotti, Wakefield, Dickey, Wilbur Wood and Phil Niekro are all in the film,” Ricki added.
I can’t wait for the DVD to come out because the extras are going to be great.
“When they went on a golf weekend there is a wonderful moment when they talked about how it started and there was a natural comradely and natural story telling that came out. They were thrilled,” said Annie.
The Boston premiere is on 9/18 and the New York premiere is on 9/20 check out the website for more details:
Both directors assured me you don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this film.
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