It’s the off-season folks, and for me that usually means engrossing myself in some baseball books that add to my knowledge and enjoyment of the game along with its players, past and present.
With that said, I knew from the summer I wanted to read R.A. Dickey’s book (with Wayne Coffey) Wherever I Wind Up, and sure enough I got it right after the World Series was finished. I find it interesting now that he might be on the block since the Mets aren’t sure if they’re coming or going. That intrigues me a bit because he’s been pretty stellar since landing in New York and his best years are right now and perhaps even into his 40’s. If he is traded, I’m sure he’ll be able to deal with it given all that he’s been through in his life.
I discovered quickly that Wherever I Wind Up isn’t just about how he grew into the knuckleball but just as much about his struggle with what happened to him in his youth, and how he overcame it. The sexual abuse that he suffered through as a boy was incredibly shocking to read about. His upbringing also reminds me of Dirk Hayhurst’s life as Dickey’s family also suffered through alcoholism and many turbulent times. Similarly, just like Dirk, he goes though bouts of supreme self-doubt and fears of never making it the game. Dickey grapples with possible suicide, and later on, discovers a love of nail salons to help him fix a broken nail so that he’s able to throw his knuckleball.
A big part of what intrigues me about reading various baseball books are the stories it shares of other players, managers and coaches thereby giving fans a glimpse into what they’re like as people. Several anecdotes are shared which include Buck Showwalter, Orel Hershiser, Charlie Hough, Phil Neikro, Tim Wakefield, Ichiro and how his routine, discipline and preparedness is next to none. Dickey includes an eye-opening account on Carlos Beltran which shows how good a player & leader he is – I wish he signed with the Blue Jays last year!! Dickey also praises Ron Gardenhire as one of the best managers around for being man-enough to apologize to R.A. after messing him up during one game. He says that takes guts and humility for a manager to do!! Last but not least, Dickey also confirms Alex Rodriguez is a pompous ass!!
Refreshingly, R.A. also admits to lying about being hurt in 2011, so that he’s not Wally Pipped which resulted in him taking pain killers for each and every start. (This has me thinking that lying might be more prevalent in the game than I ever thought before – see Romero, Ricky and Frasor, Jason).
I believe the pinnacle of good narrative is when an author gets the reader to slow down as they soak in their words. And at one point in his book, Dickey does this as he describes one knucklehead event that almost cost him his life, and subsequently sent him on a path of self-realization. Furthermore in a heart-touching moment, R.A. writes a note to his wife on the ball that he got from his first win in years as a Mariner during a game versus the Blue Jays. These adrenaline-rushing events and personal touches definitely help the reader feel an intimacy to Dickey which I appreciated.
Even though I enjoyed reading the book, there are some criticisms I’d like to share. An issue I had with the actual writing of it is the fact that Dickey (or Coffey) doesn’t use any quotation marks – at all – which I’ve never seen before and strikes me as quite odd. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still readable, but is very weird. Through some sections of the book, I felt he left the reader with some gaps in his personal life like how the hell did his relationship with Anne (his future wife) go from meeting her one day in high school to her flying in to see him pitch in a college game? While he deserves the right to some privacy in his personal life, and he no way has to divulge minute details about everything (even though he does reveal incredibly personal & shocking stuff), he wrote a biography that you would think might let the reader “in” more into his emotions and thought processes throughout his entire story. People might disagree with me on this, but I definitely felt like he left things out and therefore leaves me a little disappointed in it.
Overall, the book is an easy and interesting read about how he learns to harness the knuckleball and is finally able to achieve success in the big leagues and in his personal life. In the end, he learns to be authentic by not locking up his sadness and anger and facing the truth about the abuse that he’s hidden his whole life. Ultimately, his faith in a higher power and his ability to develop presence – to be okay with whatever outcome comes his way – has him relax and therefore enables him to at last achieve the success that he’s been striving for.
Here’s to R.A. and his continued success baffling hitters with his knuckleball. That wouldn’t be so bad in the AL East, would it?