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Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

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The Curiouser Case of R.A. Dickey

From: Clueless Editor <cluelesseditor@limitedimaginationpublishing.net>
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2012 21:40:43 -0400
To: George Plimpton <gplimpton@celestialillustrated.com>
Subject:
Re: Book Proposal

Dear Mr. Plimpton:

We are in receipt of your book proposal, The Curiouser Case of R.A. Dickey and regret to inform you it does not suit our needs at this time.

While your lead character R.A. Dickey is richly drawn, and his backstory is potentially appealing, we here at Limited Imagination agree there is no way he could exist. Since you insist on setting Dickey within the milieu of major league baseball, there needs to be at least some semblance of reality attached to your protagonist, and quite frankly, your Dickey may be the least fathomable sports character we’ve ever read.

Truth stranger than fiction? (Photo by Sharon Chapman)

According to our research department, most successful baseball pitchers attain a level of peak performance in their 20s, but your Dickey is supposedly a career journeyman derailed by the lack of an essential component in his throwing arm who attempts to learn a magic pitch in his 30s, takes years to master it and then, quite suddenly, takes it to a whole other level where he becomes all but impossible to hit. The sports reader may “root” for the unexpected, but that demographic is more and more grounded in statistical probability and the Dickey you describe in the latter chapters begins to do things that sound impossible.

We could accept a certain literary license in making Dickey fairly articulate as a contrast to the usual ballplayer, but having him write a searing memoir that lands on the New York Times bestseller list in advance of creating this pitching alchemy again stretches credulity (though I did chuckle at the idea of “R.A. Dickey” signing his book at a museum named for Yogi Berra — quite clever). More troubling is your climactic scene in St. Petersburg where your protagonist has the night of his professional life.

Where to begin with what’s wrong with this?

• First, you mention his team, the New York Mets, has recently had a no-hitter. Longtime baseball fans will immediately detect the inaccuracy there.

• Second, your key moment in the telling of the big game happens way too early. The first inning, Mr. Plimpton? And having the team’s All-Star third baseman make the mistake? That seems to be pushing it.

• Next, Dickey goes on to set a team record in the middle of all this. You might want to rethink pouring on so much melodrama.

• Also, the part where you have Dickey’s masterpiece disturbed once more by the same third baseman…you might want to do a little fact-checking to see if that is even possible.

• Finally, the aftermath of the one-hitter seems just plain bizarre. You have Dickey’s manager insisting the team will challenge the scorer’s big decision, and Dickey having the presence of mind to use a word like “purview” in his live postgame TV interview, and for some reason you layer on top of this a perfect game pitched across the country hours later by the same pitcher who once “beaned” the star-crossed star third baseman who made the two bad plays to cost Dickey his own bid at perfection.

Your conclusion carries with it its own set of holes. Where you indicate Dickey’s perfect game not being a perfect game is beside the point because the bigger victory is that he’s pitching so incredibly well throwing the magic pitch that maybe next time he’ll throw the perfect game — and even if he doesn’t, a string of shutouts and near-shutouts that are on par with what the best pitchers in his team’s history have done is plenty?

No disrespect, Mr. Plimpton, but we here at Limited Imagination Publishing wonder if you have any concept of telling a good sports story.

Nevertheless, we do see some promise in certain elements of The Curiouser Case of R.A. Dickey. I would suggest that instead of making him an intellectual Southerner who struggled for years in the minor leagues before emerging as a sensation in New York, you convert him to a different kind of protagonist. He could have an Eastern religious bent along the lines of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha. Since they have nicknames in baseball (by the way, “R.A.” isn’t much of a baseball name), you could shorten “Siddhartha” to maybe Sid. Or Sidd, even. I was thinking about how you worked Berra into your proposal, so let’s say He’s A Pitcher, Part Yogi And Part Recluse; Impressively Liberated From Our Opulent Life-Style, Sidd’s Deciding About Yoga — and his future in baseball.

This is just something that springs to mind. Hmmm, “springs”…say, here’s another suggestion: you may want to set your story in spring training. You already have the Mets in Florida. Maybe you can check and see if the Mets ever trained in St. Petersburg and play off that location (but in a venue more interesting than a domed stadium, which I’m pretty sure they don’t even have in baseball anymore; placing the action in the middle 1980s might solve that problem, but that’s up to you). St. Pete might be fertile ground for “Sidd” to do eccentric things like play the French horn and throw the baseball outlandishly hard.

Admittedly, it’s a little off the charts, but the idea that a fictional pitcher can get batters out with devastating fastballs at least seems, as they say, in the ballpark. This “R.A. Dickey” and his magic pitch that nobody’s ever thrown the way he’s throwing it in your book?

Honestly, Mr. Plimpton, who’s going to believe that could happen?

Good luck,

Clueless Editor
Limited Imagination Publishing

28 comments to The Curiouser Case of R.A. Dickey

  • 30 teams in the majors and this guy landed on our door step!! How lucky are we to witness such performances and team record setting ones at that!! This guy is fantastic and will actually have me out at the park to personally witness his next performance…BRAVO..BRAVO..

    Rich P

  • Dave

    Brilliant. The article and the protaganist. Forget the debate about whether or not RA is now the ace, I’m not sure he’s even human. Maybe ‘RA’ aren’t initials…wasn’t Ra an Egyptian diety?

    And while I don’t often rush to Minaya’s defense and don’t recommend that others do either, in fairness, it was Omar who took a shot and signed him. So thanks for that at least, Omar.

  • NostraDennis

    Greg, I was at Wednesday night’s game, along with enough Mets fans to far outnumber the Rays fans in attendance. This was the most dominating performance I’ve ever seen from a Mets pitcher in my life. I saw a pretty good one a few Friday nights ago. This performance was better.

  • boldib

    It’s Roy Hobbsian. Incredible.

    • mikeL

      yes, that too!

      i hate to make predictions (fear of the jinx-effect) but i can imagine RA finishing out his distinguished career as a met as our closer.

      with so many elite closers proving quite fallable, RA could usher in a comletely different – and baffling – approach.

      i’d just as soon see him keep closing his own games though :o)

      • Andrew

        Mike,

        I do beleive that knuckleballers are better suited to start games than close them. First off, due to it’s unusual movement, they can be more dangerous when brought in relief with men on base (although, granted, closers usually come in at the start of the inning). Second, since the knuckleball, by nature, usually travels best with a little less velocity, they can pitch longer without the same risk of a sore arm or injury.

        Jim Bouton talks about the nature of the pitch quite a bit in his famous novel “Ball Four”.

  • mikeL

    RA is the closest thing to – was it bugs bunny? – pitching those balls that, mind of its own, avoided the would-be hitter’s multiple swings.

    if he keeps this up, i can only imagine how many young kids may grow up wanting to be knuckle ball pitchers.

    • Dak442

      I was thinking the same thing last night… how many kids across America are going to be experimenting this summer? Heck, if I had a son he’d already be studying RA.

    • nestornajwa

      It was a perfect pleasure picturing R. A. paste those pathetic palookas with a powerful, paralyzing, poifect, pachydoimous, percussion pitch.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Indeed, Omar got us most of our starting rotation, Alderson got us most of our bullpen. Wait, what?

    Brilliant article. Last night I was pondering–if he keeps this up–if RA’s in the all-time Mets “amazing season” rotation with 85 Doc, 88 Cone, 71 Seaver, etc. It’s not something you get to wonder about every season, so I’m enjoying it.

  • Bluenatic

    This clueless book editor loved this post.

  • March'62

    That was great Greg. Now how about getting Plimpton to write a story about a Canadian lad who finally made good while playing left field for Dickey’s team after everyone had given up on him. Or should we just let him Rest In Peace? Plimpton that is, not Bay.

  • Eric Wayte

    I love it! I watched the game on television last night and was entranced by the slow motion replay that showed the knuckleball actually rotating toward the plate.

    I have tickets to see the Mets in Atlanta in July and I am hoping that R. A. will be on the mound that night.

    • mikeL

      that oft-replayed one that handcuffed nickeas gave a good climpse of just how wacky his pitches must look from the batter’s box.

      if/when RA plays in the all-star game, there needs to be a catcher cam to give us all an ever better view!

  • TJHinNYC

    R.A. Dickey is just a fun watch. And listen (post-game). That’s all.

  • open the gates

    And really, Mr. Plimpton. Having him climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in the off-season? Isn’t that a little over-the-top?

    OK, I just re-read what I wrote. Pun was not intended. Seriously.

  • open the gates

    And BTW, all the idiots who tried to asterisk Johan Santana’s no-hitter can now slink away and do something useful with their lives. Because by their own standards, R.A. Dickey threw a no-hitter last night.

    Asterisk that!

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    Wonder which is slower – R.A’s knuckle ball getting to the plate or an email getting to one who passed away almost eight years ago on whatever passes for a web browser at celestial illustrated.com?

    • Steve Jobs took over as IT guy at Celestial Illustrated last year and he’s still working on updating the software on Hemingway’s typewriter, so there’s no telling how slow the correspondence might be.

  • Lenny65

    R.A.’s story is definitely unique, at least as far as Met history is concerned. Just a few years ago he was barely a “warm body” to fill out a rather hapless rotation. But look at him now! Breaking the consecutive scoreless inning team record held by Jerry freaking Koosman! That’s Mets royalty, man!

    • open the gates

      And he’s still working on the consecutive unearned-run innings record established by one Dwight Eugene Gooden, circa 1985. Stay tuned.

  • Karl Weber

    “P.S. Mr Plimpton, one of my colleagues has just informed me that you passed away in 2003. That’s the last straw. I am outraged that you would push the limits of my credulity even further by waiting until almost nine years after your death to submit your proposal.”

    • Plimpton tried on all sorts of guises in his career. He may very well be away on extended assignment so he can write about what it’s like being no longer with us.

  • Hahaha! Thanks Greg! I got a big kick out of seeing myself and my “Dickey Does It” banner prominently displayed in your great article.

    I do believe my banner started the “no hitter” magic swirling at Citifield; and I have no doubt now that RA is destined to pitch a perfecto for the Mets.

    Really fun article!
    Lisa

  • […] Such a line of thinking proved particularly stupid on my part because once you’ve read Wherever I Wind Up, you realize he is the way he is, no matter how he’s pitching. And bless his heart for being who and what he is, because he’s clearly one of the most compelling characters to ever pull on a Mets uniform. […]

  • […] BBWAA celebrated R.A. last night. We do it every five days for six months out of every year. And we’re doing it again like we did it in ’10, as we ape […]