February 2nd, 1972
Jared Fernandez Born
Jared Fernandez is among the last of a dying breed, the Knuckleballers. Besides Tim Wakefield and Steve Sparks, Fernandez was the only knuckleballer to pitch in MLB last season, and the only one under the age of 35. Of course, Fernandez pitched just one inning (in two games) for the Astros, including getting crushed in a start against St. Louis allowing 4 runs while managing to retire just one batter--despite being spotted a 4 run lead of his own before he even took the mound.
Fernandez is unique not just in throwing the knuckleball, but also for the style of knuckleball he throws. Wakefield, Sparks and most pitchers throw a "slow" knuckleball, that is, one that comes to the plate in the 60s. Fernandez by contrast, is the first pitcher since Joe Niekro (for those of you keeping track, he’s the less talented Nierko) to throw his knuckleball in the low 70s. Fernandez is also unique in that, unlike literally everyone else for years and years, Fernandez actually throws his knuckleball with the knuckles, compared to the fingertips most pitches use. Fernandez’s unique method of throwing the pitch probably explains in part why Fernandez throws the hard knuckleball. Whatever the reason for his hard knuckles, if you get a chance to see Fernandez (or Sparks or Wakefield), you should, because someday soon the knuckleball might be as rare a sight as an Eephus pitch.