Originally written on MLB Injury News  |  Last updated 10/23/14
This weeks crowning of R.A. Dickey as National League Cy Young award winner sets the Tennessee native near the top of another rather select list of major leaguers…those who succeeded despite physical deformities.  These men didn’t overcome bad knees, a la Mickey Mantle, or end a dominant career with a bone on bone elbow like Sandy Koufax…. No these men had actual missing (or in 1 case extra) parts.  Some achieved great things in their careers, but few have been feted as immortally as Dickey has been for his 2012 performance. Mordecai (ThreeFingers) Brown was a pitcher who excelled for the Cubs in the early 20th century, winning 20 or more games in six consecutive seasons, including totals of 29 and 27 in consecutive years, while winding up with a career ERA of 2.06.  Brown suffered his disability (memorialized by his thoughtful nickname) as a result of accident (or two in his case) as opposed to birth.  An Indiana native, Brown lost most of his index finger and mangled the others in a farm machinery accident.  Before the hand had fully healed, Brown took an unfortunate fall which broke his middle finger.  That finger was never set properly and remained bent forever.  Still the former coal miner managed to lead his Cubs to consecutive World Series victories over the Detroit Tigers (1907 and 1908) while forging a Hall of Fame career. He was enshrined for his 239 wins in 1949, a year after his death. Pete Gray, like Brown, suffered his ailment, a lost right arm, as result of a youthful accident.  According to his obituary in the July 2, 2002 New York Times, Gray, at age 6, slipped under a train and his arm was run over, soon to be amputated above the elbow.  Gray came to the big leagues as a member of the St. Louis Browns, his opportunity coming as a result of many of baseball’s stars serving in WWII.  In 1945, he appeared in 77 games in the Browns outfield.  It didn’t take big league pitchers long to figure out that despite his speed and ability to slap at the thrown ball, Gray couldn’t handle a major league curve-ball.  By June 30th his .218 average proved insufficient for him to remain in the majors, though to his credit he had struck out only 11 times in his 253 plate appearances.  Pete Gray truly served as an inspirational symbol to the handicapped of his time. Eddie Gaedel was a true little person, standing 3’7” and weighing only 65 lbs.  Gaedel was employed by the St. Louis Browns for exactly 1 day, August 19, 1951. Browns owner and promoter nonpareil Bill Veeck recalled in his autobiography “Veeck as in Wreck” that 1951 was spent celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the American League.  By mid-August the Browns were already more than 40 games under .500, and attendance at Sportsman’s Park was dismal.  Veeck decided to do something so outlandish, something he touted as never having been done before in order to fill the stands with the curious minded, since his team couldn’t lure true baseball fans.  No one knew what he had up his sleeve, the only clue being the “midget” sized beers given to the fans as they entered the park that day, meant to celebrate both the leagues’ and the White Sox’ sponsors ( Falstaff Beer) anniversaries.  But then, in the home half of the first inning of the Sunday nightcap game, the 18,000 attendees ( the largest Browns home crowd in four years) heard the announcer call for a pinch hitter for the Browns LEAD OFF hitter.  And up to the plate stepped number 1/8, Eddie Gaedel.  Gaedel, it turns out, had been added to the team roster that morning, and had been kept hidden in the executive offices during the first game.  Four pitches later Eddie trotted to first base, where he was promptly pinch-run for, never to appear on the field again.  Veeck had had his big day at the box office, and Eddie Gaedels’ 2 minute career, truly an aberration, was one that would be remembered forever. Carlos May was a first round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox in 1966, making his big-league debut in late 1968.  1969 saw him serving in the US Marine Reserves (as many ballplayers of that time did, in order to fulfill their service time while still playing ball approximately three-fourths of the time). In July, he and his brother Lee had both played in the major league all-star game in Washington, D.C., a first for siblings.  A month later, however, during his service at Camp Pendleton, California, May suffered the body changing injury that left him believing his career was over. Attempting to clean a mortar that, unbeknownst to him, hadn’t fired, he pushed an iron rod into the shell, causing it to explode and take off part of Carlos’ right thumb with it.  Uncertain of his future, his short season was still good enough to be named the American League Rookie of the Year.  Hard work and an adjustment in his hitting style allowing him to utilize all fields led to his next award, the 1970 Comeback Player of the Year.  May never let the injury slow him down, making All-Stars again in 1972 and completing a ten year career in 1977, having been a part of the American League Champion New York Yankees the year before. Pete Gray wasn’t the last one armed man to take his shot at the big leagues.  Jim Abbott amazed the world as a successful starting pitcher, despite a birth defect that left his right arm deformed below the elbow without a right hand.  Bats left, throws left hardly tell the story of how Jim Abbott competed on the field.  Forced to find a way to deliver his pitch, don his glove, field the ball, remove the glove and grab the ball all with his left hand, Abbott had to do this quickly enough to both protect himself from batted balls from only 60 feet away and to complete defensive plays as competently as any two handed player. The 200 lb hurler became adept at tucking his glove under his right arm before his delivery and after fielding the ball, allowing him to have a storied career at the University of Michigan, where in 1987 he was named the nation’s best amateur athlete, winning the James E Sullivan Award to commemorate this.  Reaching the majors at age 22, he lasted 10 years, primarily in the American League where the DH rule kept him from having to bat.  He did end his career with the NL’s Brewers where he managed two hits and three RBI’s in his only 21 career at-bats. Winning as many as 18 games in his best season (1991 while with the Angels), Jim Abbott’s crowning moment came with the New York Yankees, for whom he threw a no-hitter on September 4,1993, versus the Cleveland Indians.  Though Abbott retired with a losing record (87-108), he was a workhorse of a starter for most of his career, and a study in courage as well as a marvel to watch compete. Antonio Alfonseca pitched nearly 600 games in relief over an 11 year span, appearing in five different major league uniforms.  Never an All-Star, for several of those years Alfonseca was considered a very good closer, leading the National League in saves in 2000 with 45 for the Florida Marlins.  His malady, you might be wondering?  Alfonseca was born with TOO MANY body parts…he had six fingers and six toes on each of his extremities. A condition called polydactylism, it was in fact inherited from his grandfather.  Steroids may have enhanced players performances during the time Alfonseca competed, but Antonio was not able to parlay these extra appendages into any noticeable advantage.  Curtis Pride did not amass any big numbers in the eleven partial seasons he spent in the big leagues.  Used largely as a pinch hitter and defensive specialist in the outfield, Pride wore six different major league uniforms in his career.  Despite leaving little mark on the game statistically, Curtis Pride’s bravery and ability to compete with some of the most gifted athletes of his time is remarkable because Pride was deaf from birth due to rubella. Named the 1996 winner of the Tony Conigliaro Award ( given annually to the MLB player who best overcomes adversity ), Curtis’ post career work  may be his biggest source of pride, helping hearing impaired children via his Together With Pride foundation. And then there is Robert Alan (R.A.) Dickey, one of the most unlikely standouts of this just completed 2012 campaign.  Dickey was a fine pitcher for his home state University of Tennessee and an academic All-American in 1996.  The Texas Rangers selected him with the 18th overall pick in that years draft and offered him some $800,000 dollars to sign.  Recent legend has it that before the papers were signed, a Texas team doctor noticed IN A PHOTOGRAPH that Dickey’s arm hung peculiarly.  The Rangers poked and prodded Dickey some more, only to discover that he was missing a ligament, specifically the ulnar collateral ligament in his right (throwing) elbow.  Having lived with this condition his entire life, Dickey was suddenly labeled as damaged goods, and the Rangers bonus offer dropped by more than ninety percent.  Dickey accepted the lower offer and went of to toil in the minors.  Some 10 years later and with only 33 big league starts under his belt, his odyssey continued, as his contract started being shuffled around , earning him the journeyman tag.  Having developed a knuckle ball during his minor league tenure, Dickey used the trick pitch to put together a fine 2007 season in the Brewers organization which earned him PCL Pitcher of the Year accolades. That effort just led to his bouncing to the Twins organization, then to the Mariners, back to Minnesota and back once more to Seattle, all in the 2007-8 off-season.  2008 and 2009 saw him throw his floater nondescriptly, and mostly in relief, for the Mariners, and , of all teams, the Twins once again.  But in 2010, at age 35, the New York Mets gave him his first real chance as a starter, and R.A. did not disappoint them. Eleven wins and 2.84 ERA were bright spots for that lowly club.  Dickey remained in the Mets 2011 rotation, and while his numbers weren’t quite as good as the year before, he still consumed over 200 innings as he made every start.  And the rest, as they say , is history. 2012 proved to be a magical time for this man.  He bared his soul early in the year, penning a book wherein he admitted to having been sexually abused as a child.  He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.  And he exploded on the National League scene with a career year that any phenom hopes to achieve somewhere along the line by winning 20 games for a hapless ball club, and striking out a league leading 230 hitters along the way.  His performance peaked in June, when his six starts garnered three complete games and two shutouts including an unfathomable pair of back to back one-hitters during inter-league play, going 5-0 for the month.  He was also incredibly consistent, as he won at least three games in five months out of the six the season encompassed.  Dickeys’ exploits were rightly rewarded earlier this week when he was named as the very first Cy Young award winner to feature the knuckle-ball.  Success had come in spades at age 38, defying his biological shortcomings. There were others who have dealt with physical adversities over the years other than game injuries or regular wear and tear, ranging from Tourette ’s syndrome to club feet , cancers, and diabetes.  These eight men mentioned here all defied odds and tradition and made their marks on the national pastime despite their abnormalities.   Follow @mlbinjurynews !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="http://www.mlbinjurynews.com//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs"); var _gaq = _gaq || []; _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-34100676-1']); _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']); (function() { var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true; ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 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