By Ron Wynn
For only the fourth time in Major League Baseball history, both Cy Young winners hail from the same city. Nashville’s David Price (Tampa Bay Rays) and R.A. Dickey (New York Mets) won the American and National League Cy Young Awards last Wednesday.
Price (20-5) prevailed in the American League’s second closest race ever. He tied Jered Weaver in wins and winning percentage, while leading both leagues in earned run average (2.56) and finishing sixth in strikeouts. Price edged defending champion Justin Verlander 153-149, getting 14 of 28 first-place votes.
Only the 1969 contest, which saw Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar and Detroit’s Denny McClain finish in a tie, was closer. Dickey became the first knuckleballer to win the NL award. He won 20 games (20-6) for a team that finished 74-88, and became only the third Mets pitcher ever to be selected. He joins three-time winner Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden in 1985. Dickey is also the first Mets pitcher to win 20 games since Frank Viola in 1990.
The two grew up 34 miles apart. They now share the same agent Bo McKinnis. Price formerly was a staff ace for Vanderbilt, and finished second in the 2010 Cy Young balloting. Dickey has only been throwing the knuckleball since 2006, but only mastered it two years ago.
Despite their stylistic differences, David Price and R.A. Dickey share an affection for Nashville. Both live here in the offseason, and are known to appear at local sporting events like Vandy, Predators, Titans or Sounds home games.
Both Dickey and Price began attracting attention in high school. Dickey was a star at Montgomery Bell Academy, Price at Blackman in Rutherford County. Price was a three time Rutherford County Male Athlete of the Year and a Co-District 7AAA Pitcher of the Year. Each was a big enough star on the high school level to be the subject of national articles and also get the opportunity to sign big bonuses. But Dickey opted for the University of Tennessee, and Price for Vanderbilt University.
Dickey excelled at both athletics and academics while at UT. His 3.35 GPA in English literature earned him both Academic All-American and Academic All-SEC honors, plus a contract offer from the Texas Rangers. He also won two games for the 1996 U.S. Olympic team, which earned the bronze medal.
Besides being a finalist for the Golden Spikes award (an honor given the nation’s premier college baseball player), during his three years with Vanderbilt, Price helped them become perennial SEC and NCAA title contenders. The only thing they didn’t accomplish during his time there was a berth in the College World Series. He also was a key contributor to the 2006 US squad that won the World University Games gold medal.