Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest For Truth, Authenticity, And The Perfect Knuckleball
By R.A. Dickey with Wayne Coffey
I'm a little late to the party with R.A. Dickey's book.
But whether you've read the book or not, I think I can offer you a different take.
I'm pretty sure when the book got its press when it was released the big themes were: Dickey was sexually abused as a child and he's had a lot of struggles in his life and career.
What I didn't realize when I finally sat down to read the book was that Dickey's life struggles included the fact that in many ways he was a pretty flawed person...and that there's a really good baseball book buried among all of the depressing stuff.
Here's my problem: Until I learn differently I assume the best in people...especially athletes. I've learned over the years that many of the players I root for on the field are flawed - usually tremendously flawed - as individuals. But I tend to think of the players as I did when I was a kid - that they're major league people as well as ballplayers.
That's usually not the case...and then I crash pretty hard on them once I find it out. (I know it's a naive way of thinking, and I promise you I'm a little more eyes wide open than I was...but still, for someone approaching his mid-30's, I should really know better than I do.)
Anyway, I held R.A. Dickey up on this kind of a pedestal. He always says the right things, he's got a story you want to root for - you just want him to be this great guy. And he kind of is that kind of a guy right now. But he wasn't always. And that was something that hit me hard reading this book - especially the fact that he cheated on his wife. That does nothing to help me erase my stereotypes of ballplayers, and I was really disappointed to read it. I give Dickey some credit in how he's worked to put his life - and marriage - back together...but there's a big sense of disappointment. I'll still root for him hard on the field, but in the back of my mind I won't forget that part of his story.
The other part of his story is the abuse...and I'll admit that colored my enjoyment of the book. I hate, hate reading about child abuse. I hate it. And I knew it was coming in this book, and as I turned the pages, there was dread just wondering when he was going to bring it up. And then after the initial writing, it resurfaces a couple of more times later in the book. I'm not saying Dickey shouldn't have written about it....just that it makes me incredibly sad to read about. And that aspect of the book made me really sad. So that affected my reading of the book. Perhaps that's why I enjoyed the baseball portions of the book so much - it was sort of a safe topic.
So let's talk about the baseball. Reading about a contemporary player like R.A. Dickey means that his journeys through the minor and major leagues brought him into contact with lots of recognizable names. I liked that part of the book. (And as much as there are flawed aspects of Dickey's character, there are positives - based somewhat on his positive interactions with other players as he was coming up. After reading this book I put Jeff Brantley up on one of those pedestals because of the way he treated Dickey when Brantley was a veteran and Dickey was a rookie.)
I guess I haven't read many books about minor league baseball life, because I found those parts of the book (and for R.A. Dickey's career, the minor leagues play a major part of the story) tremendously interesting. Also, the information about throwing the knuckleball and Dickey's meetings with Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro, and Tim Wakefield are among the most gripping (pun intended) stories in the book I think my favorite baseball tidbit might be about when Josh Thole met with Doug Mirabelli to talk about catching the knuckleball.
Dickey doesn't go after many people in the book, but he's pretty honest about the Mets organization and the ownership situation, and even his take on Jose Reyes taking a seat after getting a hit in last year's season finale.
Dickey's climb up Mount Kilimanjaro last offseason is mentioned only briefly in the book's acknowledgements, but it certainly comes off in a different light when you compare it to a story Dickey spends much more time telling earlier in the book about trying to swim the raging Missouri River, which nearly cost him his life. It seems to illustrate that at times (though there was a charitable mission involved in the mountain climb whereas the river situation was purely selfish) there is a careless (again, flawed) aspect to Dickey's behavior that is something of a still-continuing pattern.
I was pleased that the game Dickey spent the most time describing in the book was his one-hitter against the Phillies in August of 2010
- one of the best games I ever attended. He wrote about how that game (and the minor league game he threw earlier that year where he gave up a hit and then retired 27 straight batters) was one of the best he ever threw. It makes me think that there will have to be an updated edition of the book following the 2012 season, including Dickey's amazing stretch earlier this season which included two one-hitters, one against Buck Showalter's Orioles. I didn't realize at the time (though it was talked about both in that series with the Orioles and on Sunday Night Baseball with Orel Hershiser), but it became tremendously clear reading the book, just how important Showalter and Hershiser were in Dickey's career...and how much it must have meant for Dickey to pitch that way with Showalter in the opposite dugout. Then there's the possibility that he'll be a 20-game winner this year...there needs to be another chapter added.
So that's my final advice to you: If you don't mind taking Dickey as a person down a notch, Mets fans need to read this book. But maybe you'll want to wait to get it as a holiday gift and read it in December or January, when that final chapter is (hopefully) added. Because as deep as Dickey gets into his personal story, there's a huge chunk of his professional story that has unfolded in the months since the book was released that he will need to tell. And that chapter will bring even more closure to the story of R.A. Dickey.