The best All-Star story has roots in Seattle

Jul 10, 2012, 9:39 AM | Updated: 11:12 am

When Seattle Mariners fans watched R.A. Dickey struggle four years ago – finishing with a 5-8 record and a 5.21 ERA – few would have guessed he would become the best story of the 2012 season.

The New York Mets’ right-hander had a first half for the ages with a 12-1 record, including back-to-back one-hit shutouts. He was selected for the All-Star Game for the first time at age 37.

By his own admission, Robert Allen Dickey owes much of his success to his his bold request during a Mariners game on Memorial Day 2008 at Safeco Field. That’s when Dickey sent a note to the Boston Red Sox clubhouse asking if he could speak with fellow knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

As Dickey writes in his book, “Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball,” the two met behind the plate and talked for 45 minutes before Dickey asked Wakefield if he could watch his bullpen session the following day.

Wakefield had no problem sharing his knowledge, because the knuckleball is an art form and few men have been able to master its nuances.

During media day in Kansas City on Monday, Dickey told reporters he was grateful Wakefield and former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell opened a door to him that perhaps not everyone would.

“He was real generous in letting me come watch,” Dickey said. “I would watch like I was a kid in a candy store, watching Tim pitch after pitch, looking at his mechanics, looking at the flight path of his ball, looking at the rotation, things like that. He accepted that. It’s not usual that an adversary will come over and watch the other guy throw a bullpen in the hopes of getting better, and he let that happen.”

The knuckleball is the most unpredictable pitch to hit or catch in baseball, not just from one start to the next, but from pitch to pitch. That makes Dickey’s 4.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio even more impressive.

Dickey, the owner of the best record in the majors, hoped to become the first knuckleballer to start an All-Star Game since Dutch Leonard in 1943. Instead, San Francisco’s Matt Cain was manager Tony La Russa’s choice to start for the National League.

While Dickey is disappointed, he’s worked too hard in his career to let a minor setback get him down.

“I’m not going to break down in tears over it, but at the same time I’m a competitor. I want to pitch. I want to start,” Dickey said. “I feel like I had a good enough first half that I should be considered. But I’m not the boss. I don’t necessarily have to agree with him, but I have to respect it. That’s just the way it is.”

You can hear the MLB All-Star Game at 4:30 this afternoon on 710 ESPN Seattle.

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The best All-Star story has roots in Seattle