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Jays sign another knuckleball pitcher: Frank Viola III

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Daddy Viola on April 28, 1996.
Daddy Viola on April 28, 1996.
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The Blue Jays have signed another knuckleball pitcher, this one the son of a former major league pitcher, both father and son are named Frank Viola. As my son would say some would find that confusing.

And Tim Wakefield twittered:

Viola, Jr is 29 now, and has been working on the pitch for 3 years now. He wasn't having much luck throwing more tradition pitches:

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP
2005 21 Bristol APPY Rk CHW 5 2 3.84 13 12 70.1 74 30 2 20 59 1.336
2007 23 Bristol APPY Rk CHW 0 0 4.96 11 3 16.1 27 9 4 7 10 2.082
2010 26 St. Paul AA Ind 1 2 4.58 21 1 37.1 39 19 0 23 20 1.661
3 Seasons 6 4 4.21 45 16 124.0 140 58 6 50 89 1.532
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/5/2014.

April Whitzman wrote about him here.

It seems like we are trying to corner the market on people that throw the butterfly pitch. If you want to follow him on Twitter, he is @FrankViola3. His dad is @FrankViola16.

Minor Leaguer's addendum

Ahhh Frank Viola, Jr...."Sweet Music". I remember his brief time with the Blue Jays in 1996. The elder Viola had a pretty decent bimodal career, peaking in the mid-80s with the Twins and then again in the early 90s with the Mets. He was a Cy Young winner in 1988, going 24-7 with a 2.64 ERA and a solid 7.7 wins above replacement.

Injuries, including Tommy John, derailed most of his later career, but that led to his arrival in Toronto, having signed a minor league deal before the 1996 season. He didn't make the roster to start the season and was sent to extended spring training before going out to double-A Knoxville for four starts.

Back then, I was quite young so I had heard of him but I didn't know who he was really. At about the same time, my parents were encouraging me to take up a non-baseball hobby so they made me join the school choir. It turned out that I couldn't sing, so instead they put me in an after school instrumental program in late March. I was allowed to choose to learn to play any insrument I wanted, so naturally as a Blue Jays fan, I chose the viola (not fully grasping what Tommy John plus minor league deal plus 35-year-old pitcher meant).

Flash forward a few weeks and I was at SkyDome with my pops, who brought me to Windows Restaurant as an early 10th birthday present. For long-time readers of Bluebird Banter, that was the night I projectile-vomited during a horrific start by staff "ace" Erik Hanson. Anyway, we had to leave early that game, and my dad told our neighbours, his friends, co-workers, and basically everyone about the incident. My neighbour, whose company had 100-level tickets, gave us two tickets to another game--this time actually on my actual birthday. That day, Frank Viola was called up from double-A to start his first game in a Blue Jays uniform. I was excited.

Well, it turned out to be another horrible game. Frank Viola gave up six runs in the first inning, three more in the second, and another in the fourth before being chased. His line: 4 IP, 10 H, 10 R, 1 K, 2 BB, 2 HR. The Blue Jays ended up losing 17-3 to the Indians that night, but I didn't know that--we left pretty early that night even though I didn't vomit.

Viola threw another five games with the Jays, winning just one game (I actually remember his huge smile in the post-game interview) before two more poor games which ended his career.

Needless to say, I stopped playing the viola pretty soon after that. I picked up the piano.