Thursday, April 27, 2006

Tom Candiotti

Time after time, Thomas Caesar Candiotti took his turn on the mound for Los Angeles, tossing his tantalizing yet utterly mesmerizing knuckleball to opposing batters. But, inexplicably, it was the bats of his Dodger teammates, rather than those of the batters he faced, that would fall into a deep, long slumber.

To say that Candiotti was a victim of poor run support is an understatement. Between 1992 and 1997, the Dodgers provided Candiotti with the fewest runs per start in the major leagues.

Nevertheless, Candiotti always seemed to maintain his sense of humor. After a 15-to-1 drubbing to the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in 1995, Candiotti told reporters, “I’m really getting ticked off at the lack of run support. If we had scored 16, we would have won.”[1]

Originally signed by the Kansas City Royals as an undrafted free agent in 1980, Candiotti was claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers in the Rule V minor league draft at the end of the year.

In October 1981, Candiotti underwent the dreaded “Tommy John” elbow reconstruction surgery and missed the entire 1982 campaign.[2] “At the time, there had been only eight of those surgeries ever performed,” said the big right-hander.[3] “Nowadays there are probably a hundred guys who have come back from that. But at that time, the only one who had come through it successfully was Tommy John himself.” [4] Candiotti was the second.

Healthy again, Candiotti shuttled back-and-forth between the minors and majors in 1983 and 1984, but was unable to maintain a big league job. The following year, Candiotti began throwing the knuckleball, a pitch his father had taught him as a youngster. “There were some long days, very frustrating days,” recalled Candiotti. [5] “When I first started throwing it, I got sent back to Double-A for about a month, and then to Triple-A.” [6] Unimpressed, the Brewers waived him at the end of the season.

However, the Cleveland Indians liked what they saw and took a flyer on the 28-year old right-hander, signing him to a free agent contract on December 12 1985.

“The Candy Man” exceeded everyone’s expectations, posting a 16-11 record with a 3.57 earned run average and a league-leading 17 complete games in 1986. He slumped to a 7-18 mark in 1987, but then won 14, 13 and 15 games the following three years. With free agency looming at season’s end, the Indians traded Candiotti to the Toronto Blue Jays on June 27, 1991. He finished the season with a 13-13 mark and a sparkling 2.65 ERA, second only to Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox.

In December 1991, the Dodgers signed the veteran right-hander to a free agent contract. He pitched in Los Angeles for six seasons, compiling a record of 52 wins and 64 losses, despite a respectable 3.57 ERA.

Unhappy with the way he was used by Dodger manager Bill Russell in his final season in Los Angeles, Candiotti signed a free agent contract with the Oakland Athletics on December 9, 1997. The northern California native won 11 games for Oakland in 1998, but got off to a slow start the following season and was released. He signed with the Indians shortly thereafter, the club where he had his greatest success, but did not pitch well there either. After a failed attempt to pitch for the Anaheim Angels in 2000, he retired.


[1] Gordon, Jeff. The Quote Machine. St. Louis Post-Dispatch; August 16, 1995.
[2] Bush, David. Knuckleball Has Been Good for Candiotti. San Francisco Chronicle: March 27, 1998.
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.


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