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A Conversation With R.A. Dickey, Part Four

CLEVELAND - JUNE 17:  R.A. Dickey #43 of the New York Mets pitches against the Cleveland Indians during the game on June 17, 2010 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND - JUNE 17: R.A. Dickey #43 of the New York Mets pitches against the Cleveland Indians during the game on June 17, 2010 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Below is the final chapter of my Thanksgiving interview with R.A. Dickey in Nashville. It was a tremendous opportunity and I want to publicly thank Mr. Dickey for being so generous with his time. 

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Sam Page: Armando Galarraga had perhaps the most famous moment of the year, when he lost his perfect game on the last out. But you let the first baserunner on, on an 0-2 count, in Buffalo and then threw a perfect game afterwards. What emotion is that?

R.A. Dickey: To be honest with you, in the moment, I didn't know what was going on. I got the last out and then I started reflecting on it and I was like, "I think I only gave up one hit." You're caught up in the game so, the first guy's just gotten on, so all that goes out the window. It's not like you've gone seven hitless innings; you know what's going on during that time. The one-hitter against the Phillies? I knew I had a no-hitter in the fifth, when Cole Hamels came up. But the Buffalo game, it was so far out of my purview that I could have cared less. And then at the end of the game, there's all this celebration and I really started thinking about it, like "Yea, man, not even another baserunner after that guy." So, it was much more on reflection that I was able to enjoy that moment, rather than in the moment with it. With the Phillies game, I knew I had a great knuckleball and I knew I was throwing well and a lot of strikes and what not. I knew that game was pretty neat.

SP: Who caught the Buffalo game?

RD: Thole.

SP: Poor Thole, he's a converted catcher. How's he doing?

RD: He's great. And what makes him great is that he doesn't have an ego, which is a big deal. Not having an ego in this game is hard enough. But to be a catcher and to really be completely and utterly for whoever's standing out there on the mound, despite what you may or may not want, is a true gift. Thole offers that. He knows what I need to do, he knows what I'm trying to do, and he works his ever-living butt off to try to make sure that I can do it the best I can do it. He know it's going to be a tough night behind the plate and he accepts it as a challenge, whereas a lot of guys dread it. He knows it's going to be tough, but he also knows it's going to be fun. We've had some fun outings together, he and I, already over the course of one year together.

SP: You talked about the hard and slow knuckleballs being conscious now--do you start laying down fingers?

RD: No, no, no. There's no game-calling element at all. It's all left up to me, as far as the speeds go. Now, of course, if I'm throwing another pitch, he needs to know that. So a lot of times, we have a way of communicating with each other, where he doesn't have to give me signs. I can do something with my body that will let him know what pitch I want next and that really helps with a tempo. One of the things, I've always tried to do is work quickly. I am really a big believer in working quickly on the mound and keeping the pressure on the hitter, keeping my infielders on the bench, not out in the field, as much as possible. Thole's great with that. Blanco was great with that. Barajas struggled with it some, he didn't like catching it at all.

SP: When did you throw your first knuckleball?

RD: Oh man...maybe 9 or 10. Probably at MBA, when I was a freshman. 13 or 14. 

SP: It was a straight knuckleball? Not a hybrid...

RD: No, just a knuckleball. I remember digging my fingers in the same way I do now and throwing it and having the same kind of reaction. A good knuckleball, whether I throw it, or my daughter throws it, is a good knuckleball. That's the beauty of the pitch. That's why people really relate to it. It's almost a blue collar pitch. You're in the seats and you watch me or Wake or whoever throw and you're like, "There's a chance that I could do that."

SP: Maybe not at your velocity...

RD: Maybe not, but you could probably throw a baseball 60 miles per hour. A lot of guys in those stands can really relate to that. It gives them, in a very literary, metaphorical way, a link to being a professional baseball player. Because they look at you and think, "Man, that guy...I might could do it."

SP: Do you think that's why the Mets fans are so drawn to you? Could be that you're good, too.

RD: [Laughs] Yea, could have been the other way. You know there's another side of the coin here. I've been on the good side these past few years and I'm thankful for that. But I've also seen the other side too.

...I don't know why. I think they really sense that I appreciate their plight. They just want to win. And they want ambassadors for the Mets that are really going to represent who they are. And I think who they are is a real blue-collar type folk. [They want] people in the community, going to fire stations, caring about signing autographs. Real people, not superstars that act like superstars. I don't know, you'd have to interview some of them. But I know if I was a fan, that's who I would relate to. I would relate to the guy who had overcame a time to try to get there and when he got there, he really appreciated it and you could see it in how he played.

SP: I asked them what they wanted to ask you--and there was a lot of "what are you reading?"--but also, a lot of "Why are you so awesome?"

RD: [Laughs] That's sweet. I'm happy to answer whatever you want.

SP: Well what are you reading these days?

RD: I'm reading a book called The Tender Bar. Actually, It's a memoir. It's a good book; really enjoy it.

SP: My dad just read it.

RD: Did he recommend it to you?

SP: He loved it.

RD: Yea, that's great. I just got finished reading the 2010 Greatest American Short Stories. It's fantastic. It comes out every year and is edited by someone different each year. There's a great bunch of stories in there, I really enjoyed that. I read a history book about the middle ages, which is great. I just got a book from a friend called The Long Walk, that I haven't started yet. There's a book I recently read, called The Power of One. Outstanding book. I recommend it to anybody. So there's a few.

SP: Quite a few. 

RD: I got some more lined up to read. I've just got to finish The Tender Bar.