The episode: “The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies,” ep. 812
The riff: Yelped by Mike as a young woman flees, screaming and opens up a door where a zombie hand grasping in a claw shape paws at her.
The explanation: The shape of the hand is the inspiration for this riff. The fingertips-out motion makes it look like he’s grasping a knuckleball, which was the signature pitch of MLB pitcher Phil Niekro. Niekro is one of only a couple hall of famers who have reached the pinnacle of the sport using the knuckleball, which is typically thrown with the fingertips and not the knuckles as the name suggests. The purpose is to minimize any spin on the ball as it travels to home plate, which causes erratic motions because of the passage of air over the laces. A knuckleball can look very easy to hit, but at times it’s almost impossible. As of 2013, R.A. Dickey is the only pitcher in MLB using the knuckleball as his primary pitch.
Novelty factor: I know baseball well enough to be quite well versed in the knuckleball and Phil Niekro.