The summer of 2012 has become the Summer of 43 - as in the summer of R. A. Dickey, the 37-year-old knuckleball pitcher who wears Number 43 on the mound for the New York Mets. As his knuckleballs flutter and drop through the strike zone, befuddling batters and producing a 12-1 record by the All Star break, Dickey has become one of the greatest feel-good stories of baseball history: the man who found redemption, after years of adversity, by mastering one of the strangest and most difficult pitches in the game. But it's not just his own redemption that R. A. Dickey has discovered.
After the Days of Steroids - the era when baseball went brazen mad and lost itself in a noonday sin - America's game has needed a new narrative. Baseball has been desperate for a better storyline, a new shaping tale. Baseball has needed, for those who love the game, a way to signal its own redemption and its return to the hearts of baseball fans.
A little faith in God - and thereby, a little faith in himself - coupled with years of work, and R. A. Dickey's surrender to the mysteries of the knuckleball has given the man another chance at the greatness that eluded him early in his career. Given baseball itself another chance, for that matter, and promised us all that second chances really do come around in this life.
In "The Summer of 43", the widely published essayist and poet Joseph Bottum takes up this story with verve and skill. The bestselling author of "The Gospel According to Tim" and "The Christmas Plains", he is, as the essayist Andrew Ferguson has noted "one of America’s most gifted writers, with a perfect ear and a matchless style". And in his account of R. A. Dickey, Bottum uncovers both the tragedy and the comedy of baseball - and the joy of a story like R.A. Dickey's.