Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dennis Springer

A journeyman knuckleball pitcher, Dennis Leroy Springer played in parts of eight major league seasons for six different clubs, including the Dodgers in 2001 and 2002.

When Springer’s knuckleball was working, he could baffle big league hitters by making the baseball float like a butterfly. When the pitch wasn’t working, enemy hitters could make the ball disappear over outfield walls for home runs.

On the final day of the 2001 season, Springer was given the starting nod for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a game played against the San Francisco Giants before a sell-out crowd of 41,257 at Pac Bell Park.

In the first inning, Springer faced Giants’ slugger Barry Bonds.

Two days earlier, Bonds had broken Mark McGwire’s single-season, all-time home run record.

With the count full at three balls and two strikes, Springer threw Bonds a 43-mile per hour knuckleball.

Unfortunately, for Springer, the pitch didn’t knuckle.

It didn't flutter.

Nor, did it float.

And Bonds belted it over the right field wall for his 73rd home run of the year.

Although Springer pitched well that day, yielding just two runs in seven innings, he was charged with the loss.

Springer did not appear to be fazed about yielding the record blast. After the game, he told reporters "It was kind of a thrill to give it up. You don't really want to be the one noted for it, but in the pitching meeting we had today we decided we had to pitch to him."[1]

Originally drafted by Los Angeles in the 21st round of the 1987 draft, Springer made his major league debut with the Philadelphia in 1995 at the age of 30. He went on to pitch for the Angels, Devil Rays, Marlins, and Mets, before wrapping up his big league career with the Dodgers.


[1] Gloster, Rob. Bonds Connects for No. 73 in Final Game. The Associated Press (October 8, 2001).


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