Charlie Hough

Here it comes.

Why we like him: It has oft been said that if you're left handed and have a pulse, you can pitch forever. The same can also be said if you're right handed and have a good knuckleball. Charlie Hough was no exception. His 25-year career began in 1970 and ended in 1994. A career of that length is not uncommon for an ol' knuckleballer, however. The reduced arm strain of throwing a pitch that you just don't have to rare back and chuck to the plate 90% of the time can minimize wear and tear and prolong careers.

Look at the careers of the most memorable knuckleballers of the modern era. Hoyt Wilhelm, possibly the nastiest knuckler ever, pitched until he was 49. 49! Tim Wakefield, while not very good anymore, is 44. Tom Candiotti lasted until he was 41. Jesse "Pop" Haines went until he was 43 in 1937. Joe Niekro chickened out at 43 while Phil threw it until he was 48. Eddie "Knuckles" Cicotte pitched his last game at 36 but only because he was suspended for admitting to being a part of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. So it only made sense that Hough, yet another knuckleball specialist, pitched to see his mid-to-late 40s.

Hough was drafted straight out of high school in 1966 by the Dodgers, and spent three unimpressive seasons in the minors. In spring training in 1970, Hough learned to throw his trademark knuckler, and his career began to take off. With his newfound weapon, he led the Pacific Coast League in saves in 1970 and posted a 1.95 ERA. In 1973, Hough was brought up to the Dodgers and became a prime piece of their bullpen for the rest of the decade. Reggie Jackson even hit one of Hough's knucklers out of the park in 1977 World Series. Hough was traded to the Rangers in 1980 where he became generally a starter, a role he savored for the remainder of his career. He even made the AL All Star team in 1986.

During the last few years of his career, Hough bounced from the White Sox to the then-brand-spankin'-new Marlins but never really lost his identity as an aficionado of the game's silliest pitch. Though he reached the impressive plateau of 200 career wins, he career record stands at 216-216. It takes a while to win/lose 432 ballgames. If he ever gets curious about whether or not he's better or worse than .500, I'm sure he could pitch one more ballgame. After all, if you throw the knuckler, you can pitch forever.

Ladies and gentlemen, Charlie Hough, Ballplayer.

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