R.A. Dickey: The Pitcher with a Missing Ligament

Patrick MurraySenior Analyst IJune 26, 2008

This article is my recollection of the story of R.A. Dickey, told by Gary Cohen of SNY during the broadcast of Tuesday's Mets v.s. Mariners game.

R.A. Dickey was a top pitcher at the University of Tennessee. Dickey and Royals rookie Luke Hochevar pitched the Vols to Omaha to compete in the College World Series in 2005.

Dickey's fastball was often clocked at 93 miles per hour, and he threw an occasional knuckleball.

In June of 1996, he was drafted 18th overall by the Texas Rangers.

That summer, R.A. Dickey was a member of the United States Olympic Baseball Team. He, along with two other pitchers on Team USA, graced the cover of Baseball America.

While looking at the cover, a Rangers employee noticed that Dickey's pitching arm was hanging at an odd angle.

This was important to the Rangers because they had just offered the young pitcher a $810,000 signing bonus. So, they had him checked out by a doctor. The doctor discovered that Dickey's right elbow lacked the Ulnar Collateral Ligament.

The UCL is the ligament which is replaced in the procedure called Tommy John surgery.

According to doctors, Dickey should have had trouble turning a door knob and combing his hair, let alone throwing 93 mile per hour fastballs.

The Ranges reduced their offer to $75,000. Dickey accepted.

After a few years in the minors, he made his major league debut in 2001 as a reliever and eventually worked his way into the rotation.

In 2005, after a back injury, Dickey decided he would try to become a knuckleball pitcher. He already threw the pitch a few times per game, so the transition wasn't extremely difficult.

After a phone conversation with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on Monday, Dickey threw seven shutout innings against the Mets on Tuesday.

R.A. Dickey has a career record of 18-22 with a 5.59 ERA. Not bad for a guy that's missing an important ligament.