Dickey with the classic knuckleball grip. (Associated Press)
In an historic victory for knuckleballers, R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets was a runaway winner Wednesday night in the National League Cy Young Award voting. Dickey took 27 of the 32 first-place votes in the balloting and finished with 209 points, well in front of 2011 winner Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers (96 points).
Dickey graduated to New York at age 35 in 2010 after pitching eight games for the Buffalo Bisons. He was 4-2 with a 2.23 earned-run average for the Herd after being signed as a minor-league free agent the previous winter.
He's the third former Buffalo regular in the modern era to win a Cy, joining Cliff Lee (Cleveland 2008) and Bartolo Colon (Anaheim, 2005). (CC Sabathia and Dwight Gooden also pitched here and won Cys in their careers but were only in Buffalo on injury rehab). No knuckleballer had ever taken pitching's top honor.
"It's a compliment to the vision and the imagination of the writers who voted," Dickey said tonight on a national conference call. "They didn't see the knuckleball as a trick pitch or see it as some kind of illegitimate weapon. They saw it as a legitmate weapon with one purpose: And that's to get big-league pitchers out consistently. They respected that and had the imagination to see beyond some of the old-school mentalities of what the knuckleball used to be. ... It brings a degree of legitimacy to the knuckleball fraternity. This is a victory to all of us. It brings a real legitimacy to the pitch."
Dickey went 20-6 this season with a 2.73 ERA and 230 strikeouts in 233 2/3 innings. And it was an incredible year for him off the field as well as he published his autobiography, revealing he was sexually abused as a child, and climbed to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, blogging about it for the New York Times.
Here's some quotes on Dickey's Cy Young provided Wednesday night by the Mets:
Tom Seaver: "My hat’s off to Mr. Dickey. I watched one of his outings when I was in town and I was amazed by his control. I was always looking for new ammunition to bring to the mound so I attempted the knuckleball. It’s a very difficult pitch to throw and needless to say, I never mastered it. I congratulate him on his tenacity not only to succeed against all odds but to excel and achieve this very high honor. I look forward to congratulating him personally.”
Dwight Gooden: “I saw R.A. pitch at least 10 times this year. I’m really amazed how he was able to remake his career. I never even thought about throwing a knuckleball. To win the Cy Young Award at his age is more incredible than when I won at age 20.”
Mets manager and Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Terry Collins: “It was an honor to work with R.A. throughout the year and have a front-row seat to his historic season. R.A. is a great teammate, fierce competitor and even a better human being. No one deserves this award more than him.”
Dickey was the first cut out of spring training by the Mets in 2010 and was assigned to Buffalo. On April 29, 2010, he threw a sensational one-hit shutout for the Bisons in a 4-0 win over the Durham Bulls in a contest at Coca-Cola Field widely referred to as the "Imperfect Perfect Game."
Pitching on a frigid night in front of a sparse crowd, Dickey gave up a leadoff single in that game and then retired the final 27 Durham batters, narrowly missing Buffalo's first perfect game since 1952. Other than Colon's 1997 no-hitter against New Orleans, it's the most dominant pitching performance I've seen in the ballpark's 25 seasons.
Courtesy of the Bisons, here's video from that game and as well as video of Dickey's postgame chat that night with me and Dave Ricci from the Metro Community News.
(Dickey in Buffalo by Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)