The knuckleball, a pitch with so much movement but so little spin, is traced back to being first thrown by Eddie Cicotte in 1908. In MLB today the only active pitcher who still utilizes this special pitch is Robert Allen Dickey. R.A. recently became the first knuckleballer to win the Cy Young award, which is given to the best pitcher in MLB for that season. Although the accomplishment was unbelievable, R.A. overcame a lot of struggles to get there and that included more than just perfecting the pitch.
As a child, Dickey was raised in Nashville, Tennessee. His parents divorced and mother grew an addiction to alcohol. Dickey’s life as a child was filled with heartaches and there were times when he was emotionally broken. At only eight years-old, Dickey was faced with real life, a life no one should ever endure. Dickey was sexually abused on multiple occasions by his 13 year-old baby-sitter and then again by an older teenager in a local town while visiting family. At his young age, Dickey was torn, hurt and broken. It was then he turned to baseball as a shoulder to lean on, something to get lost in and take his mind off the darkness he forever faced.
Dickey attended the University of Tennessee where he focused on pitching. Dickey’s hard work earned him the recognition of All-American, the opportunity to pitch for Team USA and a chance to enter the MLB draft.
Dickey was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 1996 MLB draft (18th overall). At the time, he was offered a signing bonus of $810,000. That was before a routine check-up showed damage to Dickey’s elbow and caused the Rangers to rescind their offer. The Rangers finally offered Dickey a new deal, although lower he accepted it. Dickey then embarked on his career, spending most of his 12 seasons in the minor leagues.
In 2006, he earned a spot in the Rangers starting rotation. Dickey made his MLB debut on April 6, 2006, against the Detroit Tigers. It wasn’t the best game of his career, he gave up 6 home runs in 3 1/3 innings, which tied the modern day record. Dickey’s career as a pitcher wasn’t looking good.
The break for Dickey came in 2010 with the New York Mets. Dickey won 11 games while posting a 2.84 ERA. In the past three seasons, Dickey ranks 11th in MLB ERA.
This past off-season Dickey’s life took a rapid turn around, he signed a two-year, 7.8 million dollar contract, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money to combat child sex trafficking and wrote his truthful memoir, “Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball”. In an E:60 interview R.A Dickey said “Being sexually abused does not define who I am and for a long time it did, you know, and now it doesn’t.”
Dickey has faced adversity for a good portion of his life. His baseball career started off rocky and he could have given up. However; R.A. never gave into the struggle – he worked hard, battled and gave himself the tools he needed to become what he wanted to be. He learned the best lesson in life, he never gave up.
The Good in Sports salutes R.A. Dickey and congratulates him on winning the 2012 Cy Young Award. We wish him the best of luck for many more successful seasons.