Today continues our countdown to the start of Indians pitchers and catchers reporting to Goodyear, Arizona on February 20. We’ll count down the days, profiling a former Indian who wore the corresponding number. Some players will be memorable, others just our favorites and some, the only one we could find who wore that number. Today, we chronicle the quirky, knuckleball pitcher, Tom Candiotti.
Jersey #49 is synonymous with only one Cleveland Indian, pitcher Tom Candiotti. “The Candy Man,” may have made the jersey number famous, but he has achieved fame in many ways throughout his career.
Candiotti, originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 1980, debuted with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1983. After two subpar seasons in Milwaukee, he was released and signed with the Cleveland Indians, where he further developed and crafted his knuckleball. Candiotti worked closely with Baseball Hall of Famer, Phil Niekro while with the Tribe. The development of his craft resulted in newfound Major League success.
He immediately became the staff ace in 1986, making 34 starts and completing 17 of them, en route to a 16-12 record and 3.57 ERA. Candiotti would only have one losing season from 1986-91 with the Tribe, despite the team never finishing above .500. The knuckleballer pitched over 200 innings in each season. He was finally traded from the Indians in the summer of 1991 to help the Toronto Blue Jays on their postseason run.
Candiotti was 72-65 with the Indians and was named to the Cleveland Indians 100 Greatest Players list in 2000. After leaving Cleveland, he pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1992-97, before a stint with the Oakland Athletics in 1998-99 and finally retiring as an Indian in 1999. He retired from Major League Baseball with a 151-164 record and 3.73 ERA.
However, Candiotti isn’t just unique for his knuckleball, he also has been inducted into the International Bowling Museum’s Hall of Fame celebrity wing. He has a sanctioned 300 game and has competed on the professional circuit under sponsor’s exemptions. He was the second inducted celebrity, behind Jerome Bettis. He also is a near scratch golfer, playing in many celebrity golf tournaments and has recorded three holes-in-one.
Candiotti appeared in the 2001 movie, “61*,” as Hoyt Wilhelm, a knuckleball pitcher who played for the Baltimore Orioles and tried to keep Roger Maris from breaking Babe Ruth’s single season home run record in 1961. Candiotti, playing Wilhelm, threw knuckleballs in the film. He currently is a color commentator for the Arizona Diamondbacks.