“Masterful through six innings” but faltering in the seventh—that’s how the Toronto National Post’s John Lott describes R.A. Dickey’s pitching in a May 13 Toronto Blue Jays game against the Cleveland Indians.
The game turned on “the sort of throw that fans rave about when they try to explain why they love baseball.”
Carlos Santana was on second base. Brett Cecil hung a sinker to former teammate Yan Gomes, who lined a single to left field, where Melky Cabrera was playing deep.
Cabrera, who is left-handed, had to take several quick steps toward the line, then twist back toward the field back to make the throw. The ball took one long and true bounce into the mitt of Josh Thole, who tagged out Santana in a bang-bang play at the plate.
“Oh man, that was heroic, is what that was,” winning pitcher R.A. Dickey said. “It saved the game.”…
“Our team is scrappy,” Dickey said. “We’re fighters. We’re here to give this thing a run, regardless of what people think or say.”
The Blue Jays won 5-4.
Dickey is rueful about his later innings lately, expressing frustration “that I haven’t been able to get through the seventh inning with some of the stuff that I’ve had. I’m not accustomed to having to bow out after six innings. It doesn’t feel like I’m doing the job, especially when I have a knuckleball like I did tonight.” But he’s not stewing about it.
“I get a good 18 hours to beat myself up,” he said, “and then it’s time to turn the page and enjoy that we won the game. But I do have an expectation of myself that’s better that what I’m producing. And my hope is that I will be able to get over that hump and get into the seventh and eighth innings routinely with the stuff that I’ve had to offer the last two and three games.”
I am around baseball, so it was a natural fit for me to use baseballs as actual characters. The overall message of this book is that we can celebrate the things that make us unique and special. Sometimes, people are afraid of what others may think about them, and I wanted to make a book that encourages people to be true to themselves.
His kids were his first critics.
It was really fun to have them as the test group. They gave me a lot of feedback. I remember my kids giggling a lot at one part, and I thought, I should keep this! It was fun for me to do it to see their expressions and hear their ideas.
What would he tell kids who want to learn to throw the knuckleball?
Well, there is no substitute for hard work. I know when some people think about the knuckleball, they think there is some magic trick to it. But it’s basically getting the right grip—and practicing. I threw thousands and thousands of balls against a brick wall before I ever felt that I got it right.
That’s pretty much what he told David Letterman in 2012.
Dickey also told TIME For Kids that he and his collaborators are working a second story about Knuckleball Ned that will probably be published next year.