New York Mets knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey is on an incredible run. In five games, starting on May 27, he has pitched 41 innings and yielded only 16 hits, five walks, and zero earned runs. He has pitched two one-hitters in a row, including last night's 13-strikeout performance against the Baltimore Orioles.
Few pitchers and no knuckleballers have ever had a streak like that. Dickey is the only knuckleball pitcher now in the major leagues, and in a WORLD interview on May 26-we'll publish it in WORLD's July 28 issue, which will be posted on WORLDmag.com on July 13-he talked about the many thousands of times he threw a baseball against a gym wall before he finally got the grip and motion right.
Dickey said he kept at it through "willful patience. There were times when it's all I knew. I wasn't going to stop. You tell me I can't do something, I'm going to show you that I can. There is a lot of unhealthiness in the way that it developed originally. [Dickey was sexually abused as a child and fought feelings of worthlessness.] I feel that God transformed it in my life."
I asked him if he thought others would have that determination, and he commented about how "we live presently in a very 'how can I be gratified now' culture, and there are not a lot of people who can hold things that take a long time to develop. It's just hard. When I started the process of becoming a knuckleballer it was a lot to do with will, just wanting it badly and not wanting to give up because I knew what it was like to survive and developing the mechanisms for survival from an early age."
Past knuckleballers like Charlie Hough and Phil Niekro helped him physically and psychologically: "It took very wise counsel for people to say, 'Look, you're not going to get this overnight. You are going to have to walk through some swamps to get to the green land.' I was old enough in my [Christian] walk and old enough as a person to be able to take that, be self-aware about it, and apply it and know that it wasn't going to happen overnight."
Then Dickey returned to his thoughts about "the culture that we live in today: "Everything's at your fingertips. You want information, you go the internet. I remember wanting to watch a movie and I would have to go to the VHS store and check it out. Maybe they had it, maybe they didn't. We had to wait a week for the movie you wanted to watch for someone to return it. Now you can have it just like that from iTunes."
The benefits of instant access are great, but "because we are able to get things that easily now, generations of people who are able to do that probably have a little less patience than someone who didn't have it."