Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Bobby Tiefenauer Born
I have a soft spot in my heart for knuckleball pitchers, in part because of Jim Bouton's Ball Four describing his efforts to succeed as one and in part because although he generally otherwise dominates the Yankees, Tim Wakefield spun the hell out of one and helped Aaron Boone send the Yankees to the 2003 pennant. Besides Wakefield, there just aren't a lot of guys throwing the knuckleball around today--although the White Sox called up Charlie Haeger this season so they aren't an entirely dead breed--so it's important to remember those who threw the knuckler.
Bobby Tiefenauer, as you've probably guessed, was one of those guys. He pitched in the 50s and 60s and like a lot of knuckleball pitchers (basically that means "like all knuckleballers except Phil Niekro) he was all over the map in terms of effectiveness. In 1964 Tiefenauer saved thirteen games, eighth in the league, for the Braves with a 3.21 ERA coming off a season of 1.21 ERA ball in limited time. Of course, the year before that Tiefenauer had a 4.34 ERA and the year after his thirteen saves he had a 4.71 so you see what I mean about all over the map. Perhaps the ultimate in this was the last two years of Tiefenauer's career: in 1967 he had a 0.79 ERA in eleven and a third innings; in 1968 he had a 6.08 in thirteen and a third.
After his playing career ended (at a late age, like a lot of knuckleballers) Tiefenauer went into coaching in the Phillies' system, an occupation he kept up for twenty years as a bullpen coach and minor league instructor. After those two decades he retired to Desloge, Missouri, where he was born and where he lived during the off season through his time in baseball. He died there in 2000.