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The Knuckleballer: R.A. Dickey finds his perfect pitch

R.A. Dickey, the only knuckleballer to win the Cy Young Award, overcame a dark past to become one of the country's top pitchers

The following script is from "The Knuckleballer" which aired on April 14, 2013. Lesley Stahl is the correspondent. Rich Bonin, producer.

Last year R.A. Dickey won baseball's Cy Young Award, making him the National League's number one pitcher. What's astonishing is that he won the award as a knuckleballer, something no other knuckleballer has ever done.

An umpire once described the pitch as something hitters can't hit, coaches can't coach and pitchers can't control. What's unique about Dickey is that he's managed not only to control it -- much of the time -- he's off to a rocky start this year, but he also puts some sauce and speed on it.

Dickey has had a challenging life. He was abused as a child and once he got into baseball, he moved around as a journeyman in the minors for most of 14 years before he perfected the knuckleball. Then last year at age 37, when most players have already retired, he had the season of his life.

Lesley Stahl: You had 20 wins, 11 in a row.

R.A. Dickey: Yeah.

Lesley Stahl: I mean, that's pretty unheard of for any pitcher, forget a knuckleballer.

R.A. Dickey: Well, let's just say I was enjoying coming to the park. It was fun coming to the park.

Lesley Stahl: You're living your dream.

R.A. Dickey: Yeah, it was a magical year for me.

And he did it almost exclusively with the knuckleball, which he throws 90 percent of the time. Curve balls curve, cutters cut. The knuckleball? It bobbles, it dips and dances so much that it's hard to catch.

Lesley Stahl: Could you show us the difference between the fastball and the knuckleball - what the motion looks like?

R.A. Dickey: Yeah, sure. Be glad to.

This is the fastball: see how it spins all the way to the catcher's mitt.

Now watch the near total absence of spin in R.A.'s knuckleball. From the time the ball leaves his hand it rotates a mere quarter of one revolution. It's a pitch that's devilishly hard to control.

Lesley Stahl: Why do they even call it a knuckleball?

R.A. Dickey: When you see the ball coming at you see- the hitter sees your knuckles and it's different than any other pitch thrown. You for sure throw it with your fingernails.

Lesley Stahl: So with other pitchers there are "tells." And the batter knows that right before so and so throws a fastball he scratches his ear or whatever. But it doesn't matter with you, right? They all know you're going to throw the knuckleball.

R.A. Dickey: They know what they're getting. I know what I'm throwing. It's just a matter of, "Can I throw a good one?"

When he does throw a good one, its trajectory is so unpredictable, it's one of the hardest pitches to hit.

[Announcer #1: Oh, look at that.

Announcer #2: Jeez.

Announcer #1: What are you going to do with that?!]

Some batters are hypnotized by it. Others lose their balance or their bats.

[Announcer #1: And Utley loses the bat going after that knuckleball!]

Video courtesy of Major League Baseball