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R.A. Dickey wins National League Cy Young Award

R.A. Dickey looks on from the dugout during

R.A. Dickey looks on from the dugout during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field. (Sept. 26, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

In any other context, his words might have been taken as hyperbole. But on this particular occasion, spoken by this particular man, they were a fitting representation of truth.

"This is something to be celebrated with everybody,'' R.A. Dickey said Wednesday night after he won the National League Cy Young Award, the concluding flourish to a story as improbable as it is inspirational.

Not since Dwight Gooden in 1985 had a Met ascended to the ultimate honor in pitching. Not since Eddie Cicotte introduced the pitch in 1908 had a knuckleballer ever won the award. And not since Joe Niekro finished second by an eyelash in 1979 had another knuckleballer come close.

At 38, Dickey made history, and did it convincingly. The vote by the Baseball Writers' Association of America was expected to be close. But he won in a landslide with 27 of 32 first-place votes, easily beating the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw.

"I'm kind of speechless,'' a stunned Dickey said, moments after he joined Gooden and Tom Seaver as the only Mets to have won the award.

Dickey produced a season worthy of that select company -- despite nearly having been driven out of the game, forced to start throwing knuckleballs as a last resort to revive his career. But for the first time in his tale of redemption, Dickey combined his own will with the skill to attain dominance.

He went 20-6 with a 2.75 ERA, leading the NL in innings (2332/3), strikeouts (230), complete games (5) and shutouts (3). He tied for the lead with 33 starts and displayed consistency reserved for only the elite.

Seaver, in a statement, congratulated Dickey on his "tenacity not only to succeed against all odds but to excel and achieve this very high honor.'' Gooden hailed Dickey's Cy Young as "more incredible'' than his own in 1985, when he was only 20.

Mets manager Terry Collins called it an honor to have "a front-row seat to his historic season.''

"There were a lot of people pushing me and I'm so thankful for that,'' Dickey said. "It really makes for a rich experience with this thing.''

Indeed, his triumph was shared. It was a victory for his family, particularly his wife, who encouraged him to keep pitching. It was a victory for the Mets, and former general manager Omar Minaya, whom Dickey thanked for bringing him to New York. It was a victory for the fans, the ones who made Citi Field roar the day Dickey won his 20th game.

"They will never know how much it meant for them to come out when we're having a tough season,'' he said.

It was a victory for the trainers, who helped Dickey to make history by constantly treating an abdominal injury suffered earlier in the year, one that would require surgery after the season. It was a victory for baseball's order of knuckleballers, long derided as little more than gimmicks, despite the presence of Hall of Famers in their ranks.

"It brings a degree of legitimacy to the knuckleball fraternity and I'm glad to represent them,'' Dickey said.

Barely an hour after he won the award, he counted 127 text messages and about 40 calls on his cell. Crunched for time, he responded to only two texts and one call. He sent messages to knuckleballers Tim Wakefield and Charlie Hough and spoke with Phil Niekro.

"It is most, most well-deserved," Niekro said in a statement. "And I'm super proud of him."

It was a victory for anybody who has taken the unconventional route, for those who have known failure, frustration, and now, redemption.

Said Dickey: "I don't think anybody could have predicted that this is what it could become.''


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