Is there a more feel good story anywhere this year than the R.A. Dickey saga?
Once cast on the scrapheap of pitching due to lacking a crucial ligament in his elbow, Dickey went through purgatory and emerged with the determination to claw his way back, and gripping the baseball with his knuckles. The Mets pitcher won his 20th game yesterday, the first Met to do so since 1990, and along the way he’s having one of the greatest seasons ever by a pitcher who specializes in throwing knuckleballs.
For those who don’t follow baseball, the knuckleball is a mysterious art. Tossed with a lack of spin, it follows an unpredictable trajectory to home plate, sometimes blobbing up as a fat home run ball but more often for Dickey as a fluttering, unhittable butterfly.
All that would be cool enough as a come back story, but Dickey is more than that, one of those characters that only baseball, the Samuel Richardson novel of sports, with its long, daily grind and ample down time, could produce. Humble in outlook but a fierce competitor, erudite and reverent, in the off season he decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for charity, (The charity? An organization that helps women in Mumbai at risk of abuse) and then released an autobiography, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball, that garnered rave reviews while revealing as a child he had been sexually abused, cheated on his wife and contemplated suicide. It’s a mark of both Dickey’s performance on the field and his integrity as a person that all of this just served to make the fans love him all the more.
It’s not even just his pitching. While on the field he’s hitting a mere .157 it’s still more than “slugger” Jason Bay, and he runs the basepaths fearlessly, even in games he’s pitching well. He’s a competitor in the best sense, not because it’s going to make him rich and famous, but because it’s the right thing to do.
But to the purpose of this blog, Dickey, a English lit major in college, is One Of Us.
For those who have asked, the name of the bat I have been using is Herugrim, the sword of the great Theoden from LOTR.
— R.A. Dickey (@RADickey43) June 30, 2012
A phony might have said Sting or Anduril. R.A. Dickey has proved he’s no phony.
[Dickey is currently featured in Knuckleball!, a documentary about the pitch available on iTunes.]
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.