CY Young Award Winner
Here’s another great sports story for those of you who root for the underdog and like to see the good guy win every now and then. If you are not familiar with Major League Baseball, R. A. Dickey is a 38 year old pitcher with the New York Mets. Prior to the 2012 season, Dickey had spent the better part of the previous 14 seasons jumping from team to team and in and out of the minor leagues. In Major League baseball, when you get to your thirties and you find yourself still in the minor leagues you know that it’s probably time to start looking for your next career.
During those 14 seasons, Dickey won a total of 41 games while losing 50, not exactly stellar numbers for a major league pitcher. But Dickey persevered. In the 2012 season, Dickey had what some consider to be the most amazing turnaround season in the history of the game. He went from a journeyman pitcher in the twilight of his career to winning the prestigious National League CY Young Award, given to the top pitcher in the league as voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
To describe R. A. Dickey’s journey as improbable is an understatement. His career actually started with much promise. He was a star player at the University of Tennessee and played on the United States Olympic Baseball team in 1996, winning a bronze medal. Drafted in the first round of the 1996 Major League Baseball draft by the Texas Rangers, Dickey’s career path looked very promising.
But as is the case with many a professional athlete, faith had a different plan for Dickey. Initially offered a signing bonus of $810,000, the Rangers suddenly reduced their offer to just $75,000.
What happened? The story goes that the Rangers team physician happened to notice that Dickey’s pitching arm looked to be hanging in an odd manner. Upon further investigation it was discovered that Dickey was missing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Doctors could not explain how Dickey could be pitching at all, never mind at a major league level.
And so started a decade long struggle that saw Dickey move from the Texas Rangers, to the Seattle Mariners, to the Minnesota Twins, and eventually to the New York Mets in 2010. Along the way, Dickey came to the conclusion that if he was going to make it in the major leagues he would need to reinvent himself. And so, at the beginning of the 2006 season, Dickey decided that the only way to extend his baseball career was to become a knuckleball pitcher.
For a pitcher this is a big deal. To go from throwing the ball at 90 mph to trying to get the ball to flutter across the plate at 60 to 70 mph is a big change. Mastering the art of throwing a knuckleball would certainly be a risky move for the then 32 year old pitcher.
The new look R. A. Dickey had about as much success initially with his new pitch as the old Dickey. Struggling to perfect the knuckleball, team after team gave up on the right hander. In 2010, the New York Mets decided to take a chance on the then 35-year-old Dickey and signed him to a minor league contract with their Triple-A team the Buffalo Bison’s.
The Comeback Begins
With the help of current and former knuckleballers Tim Wakefield, Hall of Fame member Phil Niekro, and Charlie Hough, Dickey finally started to find his groove. After performing well for the Mets minor league team, Dickey was called up to the Major Leagues in late May of 2010 and immediately made an impact. Dickey went on to finish the 2010 season with very respectable numbers, which were good enough for the Mets to offer him a two-year contract.
2011 was another solid year for Dickey although he finished with a losing record of 8 wins against 13 losses. Despite the losing record, he posted personal bests in games started, innings pitched, and strikeouts. Dickey’s goal of prolonging his major league career seemed to be working as he now had two solid seasons under his belt with the Mets.
It certainly could be stated that no one saw R. A. Dickey’s 2012 season coming. The Mets were not expected to be contenders and most pundits out there probably expected Dickey to have another solid, yet unspectacular season. The fickleness of throwing the knuckleball combined with Dickey’s age (37) certainly made for expectations to be modest.
At a time when most major league players are wrapping up their careers, R. A. Dickey proceeded to have a storybook season in 2012. He finished the season with a 20-6 record, a 2.73 ERA, and struck out 230 batters in 234 innings, almost one strikeout for every inning pitched. In doing so, he placed his name alongside some of the other great redemption and comeback stories in baseball history.
At a point when most major league players are thinking about retirement or at least seeing their abilities suffer due to age, Dickey had far and away the best season of his career. And to cap it all off he was honored as the CY Young Award winner for the National League.
Off the Field
While R. A. Dickey labored as a relative afterthought for most of his baseball career, he has lead a productive and very philanthropic life off of the field for many years. If you listen to his interviews you get a sense that this man is truly grateful for the blessings that have been bestowed on him. A longtime born-again Christian, Dickey is very active in the Honoring the Father Ministries, which provide medical supplies and baseball equipment to poor areas of Latin America. He also supports an organization called the Bombay Teen Challenge that helps to support victims of human trafficking in India.
Interesting facts about R.A. Dickey
- He is an avid reader?
- Dickey has just published his autobiography titled, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball.
- He is the first knuckleballer to win the CY Young award.
- He is the second oldest first-time winner the CY Young award.
- Dickey risked his 2012 salary in order to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
- He threw consecutive one-hitters in 2012.
© 2012 Bill De Giulio
Deborah Minter from U.S, California on January 22, 2018:
Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 06, 2015:
CK has done fairly well for himself since while Dickey hasn't come close to repeating his 2012 performance. Thanks for stopping by/
Patrick Howes from Fresno, CA on January 05, 2015:
I know this happened a few years ago, but being a Dodgers fan, I still think Clayton Kershaw should have won!
Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 10, 2013:
Hi Jools99. I too was very glad to see Dicky have a great season. This guy has paid his dues. And you are right in that I think this was great for baseball. It's too bad the Mets didn't hang on to him, they may regret the day they let him go. Thanks for stopping by. Just a few weeks until pitchers and catchers report for Spring training!
Jools Hogg from North-East UK on January 10, 2013:
bdegiulio, great hub! It has been a great year for pitching in baseball (again!) but it is especially good to see a journeyman like R.A. Dickey win the Cy Young and show that a knuckleballer can compete with the likes of Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw. I think Dickey winning will, in the long run, be good for baseball. My friend visited New York 2 years ago and I asked her to buy me a Mets t-shirt - her son laughed at me and told me he'd get me a Yankees t-shirt but I was insistent on the Mets t-shirt - I do love underdogs!
Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on December 02, 2012:
Thanks adjkp25. It was an amazing year for Dickey and a testament to his hard work and perseverance. I say good for him.
Appreciate the visit. Have a great day.
David from Idaho on December 02, 2012:
Dickey's story is a great one about perseverance and heart that is inspirational for anyone who has had to work hard to succeed at what they want to do.
Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 20, 2012:
Hi Chris. Yep, definitely agree. How many athletes reach an age when they should be close to retiring and they have the best season of their career, by far. This is why I love sports. Thanks for stopping by.
Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 19, 2012:
Hi Brandon. I couldn't agree with you more. This guy has definitely paid his dues and deserves everything he gets. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 19, 2012:
Hi hawaiianodysseus. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. That is precisely what made me choose Dickey this month, I love the underdog also. Good of him.
Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on November 19, 2012:
Bill, I love stories that reveal the champion in the underdog! Thanks for sharing this inspirational hub!
Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 18, 2012:
Hi Bill. Thanks for stopping by. He is an amazing comeback story, good for him.
Heading there now to read. Have a great day.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 18, 2012:
Thanks for the reminder of what the Mariners gave up, Bill! LOL As if we didn't have enough problems, now we are reminded of the great players we used to have. :0
Look at the grip on his knuckleball...that is not a normal knuckleball grip...great success story my friend.
Make sure you stop by to read about yourself on my new hub.