KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey recorded his 20th win of the season on Thursday, becoming the first former Vol in 76 years and just the third Tennessee player ever to hit that single-season benchmark.
Dickey tied his career high with 13 strikeouts and scattered three runs on eight hits over 7.2 strong innings as the Mets defeated Pittsburgh, 6-5.
Just three years removed from being the Mets’ first cut in spring training, Dickey was awash with emotion on the field after the game.
“Only God can script a narrative like that,” Dickey said. “I’m just so humbled by it, I don’t know what to say. It is so overwhelming. It’s a nice round number. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of people who have loved me well. It’s just so fun to celebrate it with other people. That’s a gift for me.”
Dickey, who was coached by current UT head coach Dave Serrano and assistant coach Bill Mosiello during his time as a Vol, joins Ben Cantwell and Tommy Bridges as the only Tennessee players to win 20 games in the Major Leagues. The trio gives the Vols the most of any school in the SEC as he becomes the ninth pitcher from a current SEC program to accomplish the feat. No other school has more than one 20-game winner.
Cantwell was the first Vol to hit the 20-win mark, doing so in 1933. Bridges then won 22 games in 1934, 21 in 1935 and 23 in 1936.
The third-oldest player in MLB history to record 20 wins in a season, Dickey is also the first knuckleball pitcher to hit the threshold since Joe Niekro went 20-11 in 1980 with the Houston Astros. Dickey is the first Mets pitcher with 20 wins since Frank Viola in 1990.
A leading candidate for the National League Cy Young Award, Dickey improved to 20-6 on the season, joining Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals as the only 20-game winners in the Major Leagues. He currently leads all of Major League Baseball with 235 strikeouts, is tops in the National League with 227.2 innings pitched and ranks second in the NL with a 2.69 ERA.
Dickey, who was inducted into the Tennessee Baseball Hall of Fame in January, is the only three-time First Team All-American in Tennessee baseball history earning the honors each year from 1994-96. He was also a two-time first team All-SEC selection and an academic All-American following his junior year. In addition, he was a member of the bronze-medal winning 1996 Team USA Olympic team in Atlanta.
During his time at Rocky Top, the Nashville native wrote his name in the UT record book as the career leader in wins, appearances, games started, innings pitched and strikeouts. Dickey also holds the school single-season records for wins and innings pitched and ranks third for strikeouts.
20-GAME WINNERS FROM SEC PROGRAMS
Player School Wins Year
Doc McJames South Carolina 27 1898
Ben Cantwell Tennessee 20 1933
Tommy Bridges Tennessee 22 1934
Tommy Bridges Tennessee 21 1935
Tommy Bridges Tennessee 23 1936
Spud Chandler Georgia 20 1943
Rip Sewell Vanderbilt 21 1943
Rip Sewell Vanderbilt 21 1944
Spud Chandler Georgia 20 1946
Frank Lary Alabama 21 1956
Tim Hudson Auburn 20 2000
Cliff Lee* Arkansas 22 2008
R.A. Dickey^ Tennessee 20 2012
* - Won Cy Young Award
^ - One start remaining