Read Wherever I Wind Up Online

Authors: R. A. Dickey

Wherever I Wind Up

BOOK: Wherever I Wind Up
10.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

WHEREVER
I WIND UP

BLUE RIDER PRESS

a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

New York

WHEREVER
I WIND UP

 

MY QUEST FOR TRUTH,
AUTHENTICITY, AND
THE PERFECT KNUCKLEBALL

R. A. DICKEY

with

WAYNE COFFEY

 

BLUE RIDER PRESS

a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
New York

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York
10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi–110 017, India

Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Copyright © 2012 by R. A. Dickey

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in
any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or
encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.
Purchase only authorized editions.
Published simultaneously in Canada

ISBN: 978-1-101-56114-0

Printed in the United States of America

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

BOOK DESIGN BY NICOLE LAROCHE

While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and
Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author
assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication.
Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume
any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Penguin is committed to publishing works of quality and integrity.
In that spirit, we are proud to offer this book to our readers;
however, the story, the experiences, and the words
are the author’s alone.

ALWAYS LEARNING

PEARSON

For Anne and the kids
—R.A.D.

For Denise, Alexandra, Sean, and Samantha
—W.C.

Dum spiro, spero.

—Latin proverb

(Translation: While I breathe, I hope.)

CONTENTS

 

PROLOGUE:
THE WORST NIGHT I EVER HAD
CHAPTER ONE:
PLASTIC SPOON
CHAPTER TWO:
SUMMER OF ’83
CHAPTER THREE:
FAITH ON WALNUT
CHAPTER FOUR:
THE WOLF OF GREEN HILLS
CHAPTER FIVE:
VOLUNTEERING FOR DUTY
CHAPTER SIX:
COVER STORY
CHAPTER SEVEN:
THE LONE RANGER
CHAPTER EIGHT:
MINOR ACHIEVEMENT
CHAPTER NINE:
SHOWTIME
CHAPTER TEN:
REQUIEM FOR MY FASTBALL
CHAPTER ELEVEN:
REDHAWK REDUX
CHAPTER TWELVE:
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO CHARLIE
CHAPTER THIRTEEN:
KNUCKLEBALLER NON GRATA
CHAPTER FOURTEEN:
THE BOTTOM
CHAPTER FIFTEEN:
INTO THE MISSOURI
CHAPTER SIXTEEN:
SOUNDS OF THE MOMENT
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN:
RULE FIVE SURPRISE
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN:
GETTING MY PHIL
CHAPTER NINETEEN:
CITI DWELLER
CHAPTER TWENTY:
FINGERNAILS IN FLUSHING
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE:
UNBROKEN MOMENTS
Acknowledgments
Index

PROLOGUE

 

THE WORST NIGHT I EVER HAD

 

I
remember details. I’ve always been able to remember details. I will never be a Hall of Famer and will never lead the league in strikeouts, and am in no imminent danger of joining the 300 Victory Club. But my memory—that I will put up against anybody’s.

I can tell you about the little wagon wheels on my red comforter when I was four years old, my phone number and address—247 Timmons Avenue—when I was in kindergarten, and the smoky haze that hung in my mother’s beat-up Impala when I was six, a sorry heap with a gas gauge that was habitually on “E.” I can give you a foot-by-foot description of my boyhood bedroom, highlighted by the Larry Bird photo I tore out of
Sports Illustrated
and taped on the wall—I loved Larry Bird—and can still see my first glove, a brown synthetic $12 model from Kmart. It was called the Mag. I have no idea why. Maybe it was short for “Magician,” or “Magnificent,” or “Magadan,” as in Dave. I used the Mag when I played shortstop for Coach Teeter, my first Little League coach, who gave us yellow iron-on stars after we did something positive or had a good game.

I got my share of yellow stars, but they never made it onto my uniform. My mom had a lot going on.

I can give you every detail you want, and plenty you don’t want: about the dark times in my life, about the saloons I went to with my mom, and the empty houses I slept in as a teenager, a wayward kid in search of soulless shelter, and about the most traumatic summer of my life. It came when I was eight and it included a new babysitter, and a game with a tennis ball out in the country, on the roof of a garage. Then things happened—horrible things. I remember the smells and colors and feelings, and the pile of the carpeting. I remember it all.

I wish I didn’t.

When I think of that summer, and so many dysfunctional seasons that followed, the details threaten to go on forever. The inner warfare that gripped me the day I went from baseball bonus baby to baseball freak—the Pitcher Without an Ulnar Collateral Ligament—and lost almost three-quarters of a million dollars in the process. The blue flip-flops I wore when I tried to swim across the Missouri River, one in a long line of unfathomably stupid risks I’ve taken. The orange-red hues of the autumn of 2006, when, eleven years into my professional baseball career, I thought about taking my life because of the mess I had made of it.

I remember the tiniest nuances from events, big and small, through the thirty-seven years of my life. That’s why it’s strange that I don’t have even a vague recollection of the time when I stopped being a phenom.

The word “phenom” has been in the baseball lexicon forever, or at least since 1881, when it was used to describe a pitcher for the Boston Red Stockings named James Evans “Grasshopper Jim” Whitney. Grasshopper Jim was twenty-three years old and went 31–33 and threw 552 innings and 57 complete games that year (this was the pre–La Russa era), his performance undeniably phenomenal. Soon the “-enal” was left off the end, and Grasshopper Jim simply became a phenom—a word that anoints you as the embodiment of hope, someone whose youthful gifts are going to bring joy and victories for years to come.

A word that means you are special.

It is during my seventh-grade year at Montgomery Bell Academy, in Nashville, that people first notice me. I strike out twelve in six innings and pitch our team, the Big Red, to a league championship, and a year later I make the varsity, and before long people start making a fuss over how I throw. By the time I’m a sophomore, big-league scouts begin to come to my games, and they seem to talk not only about my arm but about my makeup, how I’m a kid who knows how to compete, who you want to have on the mound in a big game. As much as I love throwing the ball and hearing it smack into the leather of the catcher’s glove, I love the pure competition of pitching more than anything, bringing a street fighter’s sensibility to the mound with me, treating every at-bat as a duel at sixty feet six inches.

You may hit me. You may knock me around and knock balls out of the park.

But I am always going to get back up and keep coming at you.

The scouts keep coming too. I am the Tennessee state player of the year as a senior in 1993 and an All-American at the University of Tennessee and a starter for Team USA in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The Texas Rangers select me with their number one pick in the June free-agent draft. Everything is falling into place, my map to the majors laid out before me, as precise as anything a cartographer could draw.

And then it all goes haywire. Five years pass before I make the big leagues, a cup of coffee so brief I don’t even have time to add cream and sugar. I spend seven years—seven!—as a member of the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks, and some people in town are seriously suggesting I run for mayor. I tell them I don’t want to be a mayor, I want to be in the majors. But I am going in the wrong direction. I start losing velocity, and don’t get nearly enough people out. I give up conventional pitching at the urging of Buck Showalter and Orel Hershiser, my manager and pitching coach at the time, and become a full-time knuckleball pitcher. We live in thirty-one different places over a ten-year span. My wife, Anne, who graduated at the top of her class at the University of Tennessee, takes on a series of jobs she is way overqualified for, just to help us make ends meet and support my dream. She teaches aerobics to senior citizens. She works as a salesperson at The Limited in a mall in Port Charlotte, Florida.

During one of our years in Oklahoma City, she gets a clerking job at a big-chain bookstore. I visit her one day and, after sifting through the
Stars Wars
section (I am a total Tatooine geek) and the Tolkien shelf, I meander over to sports and see what new baseball books are out. I peruse the classics—
The Natural
and
The Long Season
and
The Boys of Summer—
and leaf through
Ball Four
and
The Glory of Their Times
. I keep walking and come upon one of those preseason prospectus books.

BOOK: Wherever I Wind Up
10.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

RulingPassion by Katherine Kingston
Trap Angel (Frank Angel Western #3) by Frederick H. Christian
Wicked Night Before Christmas by Tierney O'Malley
Cruising Attitude by Heather Poole
Slow No Wake by Madison, Dakota
Shadow of the Past by Judith Cutler
Reckless by William Nicholson