August 14, 1987 – Tom Candiotti Knuckleballs His Way to Victory Over the Yankees
Tom Candiotti was the Indians’ Opening Day starter for 1987. Throughout the 1986 season, Phil Niekro mentored Candiotti who was making the conversion to a full-time knuckleball pitcher.
He was a bright spot on a dismal Indians team that normally dragged him down with poor run support. Coming into this mid-August game, he had a 6-11 record and the Tribe were dead last in the AL-24 ½ games behind front-running Toronto. However, Candiotti had seen some success against the Yankees, including a one-hitter in Game 105 at Municipal Stadium two starts prior.
In this matchup, Candiotti faced former Indian Tommy John (of ligament surgery fame) in a Friday night tilt at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees kicked off the scoring in the bottom of the first when Don Mattingly crushed a Candiotti knuckler for a two-run home run.
Pat Tabler and Corey Snider singled in the top of the second. Tommy John walked Brook Jacoby to load the bases. This brought up Indians catcher Andy Allanson who poked a single into left field. Tabler and Snider crossed the plate to tie the game at 2-2.
Gary Ward led off the Yankee’s half of the second with a double. Catcher and future Indians coach Joel Skinner scored Ward with a sacrifice fly to right.
The Tribe re-took the lead on a two-run single by Brett Butler in the top of the fourth that chased John from the game. Reliever Brad Arnsburg quelled the threat.
Dan Pasqua led off the top of the fifth with another homer of Candiotti. Later in the inning with runners at first and third Don Mattingly put the Yankees ahead again 5-4 with an RBI single.
Brook Jacoby put the Indians ahead for good in the top of the eighth with a solo home run off Arnsburg. Jacoby finished the night with three runs on three hits, one walk, and two RBI. Doug Jones pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to record his fourth save of the season.
Candiotti pitched 7 ⅔ innings, and gave up five runs on nine hits but was good enough to beat the Yankees in their second straight matchup. Candiotti continued throwing the knuckler into the 1999 season. By then he had passed the torch to Tim Wakefield as the only knuckle-first pitcher in the league.