Monday, July 16, 2012

What We're Reading: Memoir

I guess I should have figured out that there was more on R.A. Dickey's mind than just baseball from the subtitle on his new book, Wherever I Wind Up. The subtitle, "my quest for truth, authenticity, and the perfect knuckleball," does reveal a bit more depth than one expects from a jock, an athlete, and a baseball pitcher--a less-than-mediocre journeyman pitcher at that! Based on his career pitching record headed into 2011 (41 wins and 50 losses), it is easy to dismiss R.A. Dickey and wonder, "With that record, why would anyone outside of New York [he currently plays for the Mets] be interested in his life story?" What is that old adage, "Don't judge a book by its cover"?  In this case, it's don't judge a person's memoir until you know what the person has dealt with; R.A. Dickey truly has quite a story to tell.

How about a baseball player who was an English major? One born in poverty to soon-to-be-divorced parents--Mom is alcoholic, while Dad grows increasingly distant. Mix in childhood abuse [Chapter 2 is a harrowing read], how Dickey finds purpose in sports, support through friends and salvation in God [Dickey is a Christian and his faith is part of his journey]. Layer a successful college pitching career, a lovely girlfriend [later wife], pitching for the Olympics, and becoming a first-round draft pick, and you may still say, okay, a tough background, but he found himself--so what? He is still a 40-51 pitcher, why does he get to write a book?

The answer: Much more to overcome, much more for the reader to experience, and a boatload more introspection and honest struggle for our author. How would you like to be ready to sign a major league contract for $810,000 only to have a routine physical exam discover that your pitching elbow is missing a vital ligament? Can you say, Oops, sorry we are not going to keep that offer on the table? Receiving what is basically a "pity" offer from the Texas Rangers, Dickey begins a journey of baseball redemption, and his struggles with self-doubt and his competitive desire to "make it" render his portrayal of a fringe-talent, journeyman player an insightful one.

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