Forgiveness and the Knuckleball

  Ever since I was young, I’ve been fascinated by the knuckleball because throwing it is difficult and hitting it is even more difficult (someone once said “hitting it is like trying to eat soup with a fork”).  And since I follow baseball, I was sad when Tim Wakefield recently retired.  Then I learned about R. A. Dickey, a starting pitcher for the Mets.  To make a long story short, I heard an interview with Dickey and learned he was an English Lit major in college and had recently written a book about his life – a life which included abuse, guilt, shame, anxiety, faith in Christ, forgiveness, and family.  I had to get the book!

Those of you who are not baseball fans might like this book because it is a story of God’s grace to a boy who was lost, lonely, and hurt.  I don’t want to give away the details of the story, but Dickey does a good job of describing the broken home in which he was raised.  He tells of his difficult youth, he talks about excelling in sports to help escape the guilt, and he describes his struggles with failure and success.  While the book isn’t a theological treatise, Dickey does explain how the truths of the Christian faith (specifically forgiveness and providence) gave him purpose and direction since the Lord found him in his teens.  I appreciated the fact that Dickey also showed how the Christian life isn’t one without trials, frustration, and struggles with sin.   He’s honest in depicting the Christian life.

I admit that I usually don’t read “Christian” books like this because they are typically cheesy and poorly written.  This book is neither cheesy nor is it poorly written.  Dickey can write, and the book is not an example of the embarrassing corny Christianity that is prevalent today.  Here’s one example of this.

“To me, prayer is not a me-driven, goal-driven endeavor, something I turn to when I really need to pitch a dominate game or get out of a tight spot or personal crisis.  I’ve never prayed to God and said, ‘Lord, please let me strike out Albert Pujols four times tonight.’  Nor will I ever do that.  God is not a genie in a bottle that you rub when you want something” (p. 286).

Though Dickey doesn’t quote the Westminster Shorter Catechism (I was hoping he would!), this book is not an example of sports-star Christianity.  It’s a story of an average Christian, delivered from sin and misery, who still struggles in life, and happens to be an excellent knuckleball pitcher.

Finally, I enjoyed the baseball aspect of the book.  It was fascinating to read how Dickey had to develop the knuckleball, getting pummeled while doing so – but he got back out there and tried again.  Learning about Dickey being a “4-A” guy (stuck between the minors and majors) was also something I never thought about before.  Baseball fans (even those who are not Mets fans) will also like the book because it shows the beauty of the game.

Here’s the full info: R. A. Dickey, Wherever I Wind Up (New York: Blue Rider Press, 2011).

shane lems

1 thought on “Forgiveness and the Knuckleball”

  1. My son and I just finished the book. It IS excellent, fortunately lacking the cheesiness of a lot of Christian stories–of constant victory. Dickey’s struggles and his persistence through them are amazing–and a better witness to the world than the “higher life” testimonies we constantly hear. The day after I finished the book, my son and I got to watch Dickey on TV throw an amazing game against our Arizona Diamondbacks. It was fun to watch his knuckleball frustrate our team. Read the book for a great story of someone who has been through it and keeps at it by the grace of God.

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