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Dickey's way with words makes memoir special

The only way that New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey could be any more perfect for the role of the prototypical quirky ballplayer would be if he were left-handed. Dickey is a knuckleball pitcher, a bearded Tennessee native with a gift for storytelling, and the author of an engaging memoir about his troubled past and his long journey to a major league career.

Dickey's book, "Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball," has become something of a media sensation. The book was excerpted in Sports Illustrated, and Dickey recapped some of his stories last week on National Public Radio's "Fresh Air."

His book, co-authored by New York sportswriter Wayne Coffey, made some headlines because of his candid discussion about being sexually abused by a teenage boy and girl when Dickey was 8 years old, about his mother's struggles with alcoholism and his parents' divorce, and about an incident in which Dickey strayed from his marriage.

Baseball is the meat of the story, however. The book has been compared to Jim Bouton's ground-breaking "Ball Four," but that is going too far. Comparing this book to Bouton's would be like comparing Dickey to Tom Seaver on the mound. Still, Dickey's tales of toiling in the minor and major leagues will enlighten any fan.

Dickey, you may recall, was a Buffalo Bison in early 2010. On April 29 of that year, before about 300 shivering fans at Coca-Cola Field, Dickey pitched one of the great games in Bisons history. He gave up a lead-off single to Durham's Fernando Perez, then retired the next 27 consecutive batters -- a perfect game with one mulligan, as Dickey calls it.

"The knuckleballs have some crazy finish to them, dropping like rocks in a pond," Dickey writes about that night. "Ken Oberkfell, the Buffalo Bisons manager who has been around baseball for more than three decades, tells the press afterward that it may have been the most dominant pitching performance he has ever seen. He played on teams with guys like Mike Scott and a young Tom Glavine, so that is saying something. The club owners reward us with a steak dinner the following night, but the prize I really want is a one-way ticket to Citi Field."

Dickey's short career as a Bison is over a few days later when that one-way ticket arrives. The Mets call him up and he never looks back.

His baseball career began in 2006 when the Texas Rangers made him a first-round draft pick. Dickey left the University of Tennessee one year short of getting his degree in English literature. His facility for words is evident throughout the book. Here are some Dickey excerpts:

*The same spring in which Dickey was a Bison, he had considered going back to college to finish his degree and then become an English teacher. "I think about what it would be like to be an undergraduate again. I wonder what it would be like to be buying books by Tolstoy instead of throwing knuckleballs by Tulowitzki."

*On his sometimes knuckleball mentor Charlie Hough, the former major leaguer: "[Hough] has the leathery look of a character from an old Western, a guy who has smoked too many cigarettes and used too little sunblock. He looks as if he'd spent most of his life squinting and the rest of it in a saloon."

*On his arrival in Buffalo: "The Dickey Baseball Tour Across America arrives at its latest destination -- Buffalo, New York -- in April 2010. I don't want to count my number of stops, but I do know they've included the Dust Belt (Oklahoma City), the Coffee Belt (Seattle), and now the Snow Belt (Buffalo). And that's not even counting the Shuffleboard Belt (Port Charlotte, Fla.)."

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Yankees off radio dial

Yes, we have no John Sterling.

The radio voice of the Yankees has been stilled in these parts after WECK 1230 in Cheektowaga decided not to renew its contract to carry the Bronx Bombers' games.

No other Buffalo-area radio stations opted to pick up the broadcasts, either.

Yankees games are all over the TV dial, on YES Network, ESPN, Fox, etc., but there are still fans who prefer their baseball the old-fashioned way, on radio.

The only ways to do that would be to invest in satellite radio, or move closer to Jamestown or Rochester.

WJTN 1240 in Jamestown and WHAM 1180 in Rochester are part of the Yankees Radio Network.

That network also has radio affiliates in Miami, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach, Fla., by the way. And Syracuse, Albany, Elmira and Binghamton. Just not Buffalo.

email: gconnors@buffnews.com