The foundation of any great knuckleball is the grip, but there is a lot of confusion out there about proper knuckleball grips. Now, I say knuckleball grips because there is more than one way to hold a knuckleball, mainly because all of our hands are unique. But that doesn’t mean that you can hold the knuckleball any which way you’d like. There are certain key points to a knuckleball grip that can’t be ignored.
I have had the privelage of working with the greatest knuckleballers alive today — RA Dickey, Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro and Tom Candiotti. These guys broke into the Major Leagues and stayed there, enjoying long and fruitful careers. And they all hold their knuckleball similarly. It’s these similarities that make up the key points of a great knuckleball grip.
No Funky Grip
Charlie Zink and his Funky Grip
And, yes, there have been guys who have gotten to the Major Leagues with funky grips, like Charlie Zink and Jared Fernandez. These guys held the ball differently; much differently than the guys mentioned above that enjoyed those long careers. So there is some evidence that unconventional knuckleball grips work. But the careers of Zink and Fernandez were short. In fact, Zink only pitched one game in the Major Leagues, earning himself a 16.62 ERA in the process. Fernandez fared a little better, getting into 31 Major League games with a 9.95 ERA. So, I think we can trust the “key points” found in the conventionally successful grips of Dickey, Hough, Niekro and Candiotti.
Fingertips, Not Knuckles
Joe Niekro showing the proper fingertip grip
The first and most obvious thing to discuss is that the knuckleball is thrown with the fingertips and fingernails, not the knuckles as the name of the pitch would suggest. Great knuckle ball pitchers curl their fingers around to make hooks and then they dig their fingernails into the rawhide of the ball. And when the ball is thrown, the fingertips guide the ball; applying pressure at just the right moment to send the ball flying without any spin.
The greats — Dickey, Hough, Niekro and Candiotti — all use their fingertips. Zink and Fernandez used a hybrid knuckle ball grip, using their middle-finger’s tip and the curled knuckle of their pointer finger. Again, these guys got to the show, but they didn’t stick. So use the fingertips and not the knuckles.
Improper grip using the knuckles instead of fingertips
And next time someone says they have a nasty knuckler and shows you a knuckle ball grip like this, laugh at them.
Check out the next chapter in a series about knuckleball grips coming soon! And all of this is discussed at length in the hour-long instructional DVD — Knuckleball Nation!
Then take your game to the next level with the Advanced Knuckleball and Pro Knuck instructional videos! And get into premium knuckleball shape, mentally and physically, by ordering Fingertips of a Safecracker & Mind of a Zen Buddhist!