Last year R. A. Dickey won Baseballs Cy Young Award making him the National Leagues number one pitcher. What is amazing is that he won the award for throwing knuckleballs. I didn’t think anyone even does that anymore. He started life being very poor but now is a millionaire. He even started romance young by asking his wife of many years to marry him at age 12. Four kids later they waited for marriage till he was a junior in college.
No other knuckleball pitcher has ever won that award. It is a type of pitch that hitters can’t hit and coaches can’t coach. Dickey is unusual in that he is the only professional pitcher using that pitch and is able to get some speed on the ball. He was abused as a child and then once he got into baseball he was shoved around in the Minor leagues for most of 14 years of his career but that was before he perfected the knuckleball. Then last year at age 37, when most players have retired, he had his best season. He had 20 wins, 11 in a row and he did it almost exclusively with the knuckleball pitch.
Curve balls curve, cutters cut well the knuckleball pitch bobbles, dips and dances so much it is hard to catch. A fast ball will spin all the way to the catcher’s mitt. In a knuckleball pitch there is a near absence of spin. From the time the ball leaves his hand it will rotate only one quarter of a turn. It is a pitch that is also hard to control. It is called a knuckleball because when you look at the pitcher you can see his knuckles standing up. He is digging his nails into the ball. When Dickey is pitching, hand signals are unnecessary because the batter knows what he will be throwing it is just the matter of judging if he can throw a good one or not.
He is the only one throwing a knuckle ball in the big leagues today. His season last year with the Mets was memorable but it was a shock when he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. He got his biggest pay day yet with a 3 year contract for $30 Million dollars. His wife is real happy since at one time in the Minor leagues he was making a mere $11 thousand per year salary. Finally not bad for a guy from the poor side of Nashville. He had a lonely and difficult childhood living with his alcoholic mother who worked several jobs to earn money. His Dad moved out when he was 7 years old.
The real darkness of his childhood started when he was 8 and was sexually abused by the female babysitter about 4 times one summer. Later that year he was abducted and raped by a man. It is terrible memories that he has gone through therapy to deal with. His one outlet was his love for sports and became a gifted athlete. When he was 13 he was admitted to one of Nashville’s top Prep Schools on a full scholarship where he found structure and discipline in his life. A classmates sister was the girl he proposed to then.
A 12 year old girl would never forget that and they waited till the Texas Rangers made him the number one draft choice with a signing bonus of $810 thousand dollars. But before he signed the contract the team’s trainer saw a photograph of him and his teammates on the cover of the magazine Baseball America of him on the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team. He thought that his throwing arm was bent at a strange angle. A MRI test proved that he was missing a ligament in his right elbow. They revoked his contract and was sent to the Minor leagues for many years till he found his knuckleball pitch and then was resurrected to superstar status.
He dragged his growing family living on very little income from one minor league team to the next throwing many unsuccessful fast balls. He had to face the fact that what he was doing for the past 15 years wasn’t good enough anymore. So, it was an ultimatum. It was the knuckleball or he was out of baseball. He stayed in triple A and had to teach himself the pitch since there wasn’t even a coach in the Majors who know how to throw it. He finally showed it off in 2006 and the rest is new knuckleball history.