For the first Player Spotlight, I’m going with the Mets’ biggest star over the last two years. No, not David Wright. Or Jose Reyes. Or Carlos Beltran. OK, all of those guys have a decent case, but I’m going with knuckleballing face-maker R.A. Dickey. While I would ordinarily focus on game-used and autographed cards, Dickey’s greatness has thus far been overlooked by Topps. Instead, here’s a sampling of Dickey’s few cards released since 1997.
Dickey’s story is the same as most underappreciated heroes. He started as a promising young pitcher drafted in the tenth round of the 1993 amateur draft, but chose to go to college and improve himself and his draft position. His work paid off, resulting in a first round selection by the Texas Rangers in the 1996 amateur draft. Everything was going right for Dickey until the Rangers discovered that he was a misunderstood freak of nature. Dickey was forced to settle for a reduced signing bonus and toiled in the minors for the pitching-starved Rangers for most of the next decade.
Dickey got enough playing time in the majors in 2003 and 2004 to break into the big league card sets in 2004 and 2005. This was short-lived though; Dickey fell back under the radar and it looked like his career might be over.
Fun Fact: Dickey’s Mets debut on a Topps card has the same number as the order to exterminate the Jedi in the Star Wars universe. Foreshadowing?
Down on his luck, Dickey bounced around between several teams (and between the Twins and Mariners a few times) before he learned the way of the knuckleball in an attempt at rejuvenating his career. The Mets, short on pitching and in freefall after three quality seasons that came up short and a terrible 2009, took a chance on the reborn Dickey. After 8 starts in Buffalo, Dickey was up for good as the most stable part of the Mets rotation. Dickey’s legend continues to grow; he spent his offseason climbing a mountain and writing a book, because he’s just awesome like that. With any luck, the Mets will have Dickey throwing knuckleballs for years to come.
The Dickey Addendum
Prior to 2012, R.A. Dickey had no game-used memorabilia cards and only three Team USA autograph cards (black, blue, and red ink variants). That all changed when he threw his second consecutive one-hitter and sent his pants to Topps. A few months later, these showed up in 2012 Topps Triple Threads.
Both cards also have parallel versions numbered to 75, 50, 25, 10, and 1, as is the norm for Triple Threads. Dickey’s appearance in the 2012 All-Star game assured that the wait for his next game-used cards wouldn’t be very long.
Sure enough, 2012 Topps Update featured a three-tier parallel Dickey All-Star workout jersey card and a jumbo patch card (numbered to only 6 unfortunately). All of the jersey swatches were blue, so the secondary gray and gray mesh fabric sections are still in play for future releases. Would this be the last we see of Dickey for 2012?
Not quite. Topps saved the best for last with 2012 Topps Five Star. The product itself was a major disappointment (high price, little value), but it had some great cards. Best of all were Dickey’s Five Star Silver Ink autograph cards. These are his only on-card autographs and feature nice big signatures in silver or gold ink.
Sadly, these were also his last autograph cards as a Met. Traded to the Blue Jays in the offseason, Dickey may still have some cards as a Met in 2013 (if Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan are any indication). Still, it is inevitable that the next chapter in this story will belong to the Blue Jays.