R. A. Dickey, Against All Odds

by Rob Doster

A belated word of congratulations to National League Cy Young Award winner R. A. Dickey, whose inspiring personal narrative and sanguine approach to his craft make him possibly the most likable professional athlete working today. Dickey’s story is now well-chronicled; childhood abuse and hardship gave way to a stellar college career at Tennessee before the discovery of a physical abnormality — he lacks the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm — almost derailed a pro career and cost him a hefty signing bonus. Years of rattling around at the fringes of the bigs led him to a career-salvaging personal reinvention as a knuckleballer and his unlikely mastery of the most mercurial pitch in the hurler’s arsenal.

The first of his ilk to win baseball’s most prestigious pitching award, Dickey is an anomaly among his knuckling peers, throwing a fast version of the pitch that limits his walks. His control of the pitch is unprecedented: He ranked third in the National League in both K/BB and BB/9IP, staggering numbers for a guy relying on what is typically a capricious device.

Literate and engaging, Dickey titled his highly readable account of his remarkable journey “Wherever I Wind Up.” Against all logic and all odds, he’s wound up at the pinnacle of his profession. Well done.

— Rob Doster is senior editor for Athlon Sports.

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