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April 23, 2009

Hough proud of knuckleball protege

BOSTON — Charlie Hough's achievement of being the oldest pitcher in Major League Baseball's modern era to throw consecutive complete games is still intact.

The famed knuckleballer was 44 years, 169 days old when he twirled consecutive gems on June 17 and June 22 in 1992.

Hough, now a minor league pitching coach, was in the clubhouse of the Inland Empire 66ers in San Bernandino, Calif. yesterday when he got word that someone about 3,000 miles away was knocking on the door of his accomplishment.

The fact that it was another knuckleballer, Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield — who pitched his second of back-to-back complete games yesterday at 42 years and 263 days old — was pleasant news.

"I love hearing that," said Hough. "I wish he would have been with the Marlins when I rapped up my career (in 1994). I had a feeling when I first saw him with the Pittsburgh Pirates' minor league system, and then with the Pirates, he was going to do something special. I've always been a big Tim Wakefield fan."

Hough has a personal relationship with Wakefield that goes back to 2004, when former Red Sox pitching coach Dave Wallace asked him if he'd come to Boston for a "coaching" session.

It wasn't the first visit from a knuckleballing legend. Back in 1999, Phil Niekro was brought in by the Red Sox for a similar get-together at Fenway Park.

"I stopped by the year they eventually won World Series," said Hough. "Timmy was struggling a little bit. Maybe it was a little mental and a little physical. I didn't do much. I watched him a throw a little bit. And we just talked."

While yesterday's seven-inning, one-run, rain-shortened gem was a nice complement to Boston's six-game winning streak, Wakefield's complete game win on April 15 was something special.

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