The Phenomenon

Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed My Life


By Rick Ankiel

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Rick Ankiel had the talent to be one of the best pitchers ever. Then, one day, he lost it.

The Phenomenon is the story of how St. Louis Cardinals prodigy Rick Ankiel lost his once-in-a-generation ability to pitch — not due to an injury or a bolt of lightning, but a mysterious anxiety condition widely known as “the Yips.” It came without warning, in the middle of a playoff game, with millions of people watching. And it has never gone away.

Yet the true test of Ankiel’s character came not on the mound, but in the long days and nights that followed as he searched for a way to get back in the game. For four and a half years, he fought the Yips with every arrow in his quiver: psychotherapy, medication, deep-breathing exercises, self-help books, and, eventually, vodka. And then, after reconsidering his whole life at the age of twenty-five, Ankiel made an amazing turnaround: returning to the Major Leagues as a hitter and playing seven successful seasons.

This book is an incredible story about a universal experience — pressure — and what happened when a person on the brink had to make a choice about who he was going to be.



To my wife, Lory, who helped me to love and trust again.

To my sons, Declan and Ryker: You have brought me so much happiness. In your lives you will encounter bumps in the road. I hope this book reminds you to never give up. I love you.

To Harvey: with your love and guidance, here's what I did about it.


For Kelly. And for Connor and Timmy.


I have two sons. They give me a chance to be good. To be present. To be better.

Their names are Declan and Ryker. They fish with me, like I fished with my father. He was a great fisherman, near as I remember. Probably still is.

They like baseball enough. I loved baseball for a while, then wasn't so sure, then loved it again. Baseball was who I was for a very long time, for better or worse. I'd still recommend it to them, if they were to ask, and it seems they're getting old enough to start asking. They're free to decide for themselves. In the meantime, I'll throw them all the batting practice they want, as long as they promise to be patient and wear a helmet.

They are so young, at ages I barely remember. They're good boys. They generally mind their mother—my wife, Lory—who occasionally must believe she has three boys instead of two. There might be something to that, me taking a do-over on the childhood thing. Part of me wants a second one that I'll recall with more clarity and warmth.

I think all the time about raising two boys, about being good at something as important as being a father. I think about it when they're laughing at the same goofy joke that makes me laugh, and when they cry on a day when I'm sad too, and when we're just driving down the road in my pickup truck singing along to Luke Bryan.

Maybe they're missing a tooth that day, their hair's all crazy, and they've half a chocolate doughnut stuck to their faces, and it makes me wonder how they ever got so perfect. It makes me wonder if I was ever one of those kids in that rearview mirror, strapped into their seats, so sure that today will be great, that tomorrow will be too, that Mom and Dad will be together forever, and that I'll be there for them forever too.

Declan is five. He likes math, and he sometimes kills time by practicing his ABCs, humming the alphabet song while he's turning Lego blocks into cars and houses and things only he recognizes. He watches American Ninja Warrior on television. He looks like me. We have the same eyes, my grandfather's eyes. When he was born, the nurse bundled him in a blue blanket and set him in my arms, and he was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. He blinked up at me, his father, the man who would, I promised, be kind to him forever, and teach him to be kind to others, and love him and try never to disappoint him. I would not call him names. I would not abuse his mother. I would stand behind him when he needed a push, before him when he needed a shield, beside him when he did not. He was the next generation, different than the last. Better, I promised, for Declan, my first. He bats and throws left-handed, like me.

Ryker is four. He already understands that as the youngest and smallest in the house, he has to be tougher, feistier, and a little more clever than his brother. He is my firecracker. On first reference lately he'll answer to "Hot Sauce." He also likes whatever Declan likes that day, which seems to be his strategy to get under Declan's skin. Ryker is a right-hander. He also came in a blue blanket, and with the same promises.

We watch baseball when it's on at night.

"Who are we rooting for, Papa?" Declan asks.

Well, I say, Papa played with him, and he's nice, so we'll root for them tonight. Or, Papa hit a few homers and won some games for that team once, the one wearing red, so we'll hope they win tonight. In the meantime, I'll put Cardinals hats on them and tell them why later. For a few hours we'll talk about the game and the men who play it, why they play it, and how they got there. We'll high-five the good stuff and try to ignore the losses and make plans to be back on the couch tomorrow night, maybe for more living-room Wiffle Ball. Anything off the chandelier is a home run. Their curiosity about baseball has drawn me back in. Not that I didn't like it. But there was always something else to do—a tiny car to race around the carpet, dinner to eat and baths to take and teeth to brush and a book to read aloud before their breaths would become long and steady and perfect. There were road trips and new teams in new cities and short conversations on the phone when I told them I loved them and would see them soon—"Home in two sleeps," I'd say—and, yeah, I'd try to hit them a home run tonight. Now we do baseball together, and it's uncomplicated.

Some evenings we'll gather up the fishing gear and carry it to the dock off the backyard. There are snapper and catfish and snook hiding in those depths. The sun's setting and the air's cooler and whatever's left over from dinner might be on our hooks. You'd be amazed at what a hunk of chicken nugget will bring. In a half whisper, I'll tell them what my father told me about how smart those fish are, and what they're hungry for, and when. How they seem to know what's coming. The boys are sometimes more interested in the bait bucket, where sardines or greenies or goggle-eyes or mullets await their turn on the hook, just as I was at their age. I find myself hoping they love this, the hunt, the wins and losses, the beauty of it all, because I love it so much, and because a father and his boys ought to be able to do this together forever.

Some nights, when the water is calm and the lines are taut, they look at me in a way I've never looked at myself. Maybe I'm imagining that. But I like the way it feels. I like what it has taught me about selflessness and accountability. About showing up. I like what it has taught me about myself and what I need to be today and every day after that.

See, there is the life you want. There is the life you get. There is what you do with that.

Simple, only not.

I had what they called a generational left arm, and I knew it from the time I was barely older than Declan. There are plenty of good arms in baseball. There are great arms. There are a few—very few—special arms. I had one of those. The scouts said so. The batters said so. Everyone said so. I couldn't help but believe them. I wanted to be special.

That was the life I had, the one I'd live through that special arm. Until it wasn't. Mine is the story of what I did with that.

It is the story of a childhood that could not be trusted because of a father who could not be trusted, and the story of the arm that carried me away from years of snarling abuse. I was in the major leagues barely two years out of high school, a big leaguer and celebrated phenomenon—that word—at twenty, and at twenty-one the starting pitcher in the biggest game of the only life I ever wanted.

It is the story of what happened after that. For on that very day, when I asked my arm to be more special than ever, it deserted me. Maybe I deserted it. For the next five years, I chased the life I wanted, the one I believed I owed to myself, the one I probably believed the world owed to me. To the gift that was my left arm. To the work I'd done to help make it special. To the life I thought I deserved.

My father watched from prison. I was glad for that. I was especially glad for my mother.

It is the story of my fight to return to the pitcher I was, a fight mounted on a psyche—a will—formed as protection against my own father. There were small victories. There were far more failures. Those pushed me deeper into my own mind, into the dark fight-or-flight corners where the costs in happiness and emotional stability were severe. The fights of my childhood against a drunken, raging father had tracked me into manhood, and now the villain was within me, restless and relentless and just out of reach. For the life I wanted, I thrashed savagely and bled freely. There is a saying that goes loosely like this: Don't fight the man who does not mind what he looks like when the fight is over. There is no winning that fight. That fight never ends. I stood in for five years, then fought some more. I wish I could have said at the end, "Yeah, but you should've seen the other guy." But when I got done fighting, he looked fine. He wasn't even breathing hard.

It is the story of some triumph. Maybe I would not be a pitcher, and certainly I would not be the pitcher who had walked to the mound one afternoon in St. Louis a long time before and staggered off. Instead, I would be a ballplayer.

I would start again in my midtwenties, ancient for the lower minor leagues, and I would return to the major leagues on a midsummer night in 2007 as an outfielder—an unfathomable journey even for me, the guy who'd trudged every inch of it—and I would play the game against the backdrop of the life I'd always wanted while living the life I got.

They called me "the Natural." It never felt that easy. It never felt that pretty. But I loved the story. If there was a comparison to be drawn, I guess I'd be closer to the Roy Hobbs in the book, the one Bernard Malamud wrote, a grittier version of the Roy Hobbs that showed up thirty-two years later in movie theaters. I had a past I didn't quite know how to explain, and had no desire to. It was too dark in there. It was too personal. Nobody needed to know but me, and I'd already spent too many nights trying to forget.

When the time came, be it on the pitcher's mound or in the batter's box, I would face the game alone. Just me and the demons. They'd threatened to wreck my career, as they had the careers of plenty before me. And every day I returned to test the demons again. I'd take one more breath, throw one more pitch, leave it behind, and try again. When there were no more pitches in me, so little hope left in me, I changed my spikes, picked up a bat, took one more breath, took one more swing, and tried again. Mine is the story of the making of a big leaguer, which isn't so unusual. Except I did it twice. It is the story of the making of the man, the best I could make him. Once.

It is the story of relationships. A boy and his volatile father. A boy and his abused mother. A boy and the game that summoned him. A young man and his conscience. And then a man lost, and those who would help him win back the life he wanted or make do with the life he got.

It is about the relationship between a boy and the game that freed him, and then turned on him, and why.

And it is a story about how a brain can take the simplest task—pick up that baseball and throw it there—and make it near impossible. How men like me, big, strong men—major-league pitchers and catchers, NBA shooters, NFL quarterbacks, pro golfers—can be reduced to somber, anxiety-ridden casualties of the mind. In the grasp of my monster, I would wake nightly soaked in sweat and terror. And then I would begin the slow daily preparation to return to a baseball clubhouse, where I would change into a uniform, snatch a glove from the bottom of my locker, and wonder if today—finally today—would be the day I would be me again.

For the longest time, I didn't much care why it was that I was the one who had been flattened, that there were a million pitchers out there and I had to be the one who was the sweaty, lost, breathless mess. Would it have changed anything to know why? Would it have made me a better pitcher? Would it have gotten me back my life?

If a tire goes flat, does the reason change anything? You go to the trunk, drag out the spare, jack up the car, and keep going. The road is still there. The clock is still ticking. The destination remains. A hundred cars pass in the meantime, and the people inside think the same thing: "Better him than me." They think, "Poor guy. Now, do I take this left or the next one?" They think, "Looks cold out there."

I didn't need them. I could change my own tire. I could fill it with air and go as long as I could and fill it again and keep going and fill it again and make it another mile.

Then, years later, with all that road behind me, two separate baseball careers behind me, I did begin to wonder what that was all about. My sons would want to know. The next generation of ballplayers, who would stop along their roads for them? Who would stand before them, arms crossed, squinting into the sun, and say, "Welp, looks like you picked up a nail. Happened to me once too."

I could help, maybe. I could care, for sure. They would know they were not alone, and even if that tire wouldn't ever be quite right again, and it probably wouldn't, at least somebody who'd been right there before had stopped. I was finally ready to know more, to ask around, to hear their stories, to learn what had happened to me. The symptoms I knew. The cause, though? I wanted to ask, not in a pained, pathetic way but in a clinical way: Why me? And, then, who's next? What's next?

My story is a trip back along that road, only this time with my head up, curious, honest, looking back over the lives that I wanted and got, and the time I shared a brain with a monster. It's still in there somewhere. We learned to live with each other. Perhaps we could ally against the monsters in other people's heads. In that, I wanted to look ahead too. I wanted to travel that road with Lory at my side and my sons strapped into the backseat. I would be present. I would be better.

On the very first day, standing on a pitcher's mound in St. Louis, I could hear the blood draining from my head. On many in between, I cursed it, medicated it, drank with it, and pleaded with it. On the very last day, I surrendered to it, stepped around it, and chose to live with it. For that, I would win, dammit, I would win, and so years later, maybe my sons would too. We get what we get sometimes, and it's still worth a fight. Every bit of it.

I want them to know my story when they are old enough and curious enough, which is what this book is for. I didn't want to leave anything out because some of it was great, everything I'd ever wanted, and some of it was not, and they should know that. It's their road too. Maybe I could clear some of the nails.

See, there's only so much you can remember over a fishing hole. There's only so much worth remembering.



The warning would come as something more than a drizzle, more like a rush of water across a rocky bed, a creek rising but in the distance, over the next rise, maybe beyond that. I'd be safe, wouldn't I? If I didn't move, if I stayed away, looked away, it would pass. I'd breathe again. My heart, my heart would want to race off, to take me with it.

C'mon, Rick, we gotta go. We gotta go now.

But I couldn't run. I had to stay. And it was coming for me. It always came for me.

Fight it, Rick. Fight it. C'mon, Rick, remember your mechanics. Right foot back

The clatter would swell, an off-key orchestra finding its full throat, its vibrations leaking into the room. Then flooding the room, the sound of blood draining from my head, leaking through my veins, sloshing through my arteries, pooling and spilling and splashing, cold and fast like rainwater through a tin downspout, a rowboat taking on seawater. The louder the roar, the harder my heart hammered and the freer the blood ran, behind my forehead, past my eyes and ears and through my cheeks, along the back of my neck.

Colors faded. A sweat rose, but I was chilled. My mouth ached for water. I couldn't feel my hands. My eyes followed the length of my left arm, searching. I was supposed to be holding something. A baseball. Was I holding the baseball? Had they thrown it back?

It was too loud. All those people, they'd be shouting at me, for me, and what I would hear was coming from some darkness within, from inside my head. The rushing noise was coming. I was alone.

C'mon, Rick, play the game. You know how.

But I didn't know how. I did once. I'd forgotten.

Dammit, Rick, throw the ball. Right foot back

It was there, in my hand. I could see it. I could not feel it. Not the seams or the muddied cowhide or the roundness of it or the weight of it. Not the familiarity of it. Like I was wearing oven mitts. Like somebody else was holding the ball for me, offering it, waiting for me to reach out.

Take the ball, Rick. Take the ball and throw it.

It had me. It had me again.

It gathered, something horrible and tireless, leaving me light-headed and unsure and blinded. Defenseless. So completely defenseless. I'd laugh it off, cry it out, throw until I couldn't anymore. I'd leave it alone, try to forget, just for an hour or two, maybe a day, then come back and find it was worse—deeper in me—than before.

I was a young man, barely old enough to sip a beer, now in dire need of one or six. I threw a pitch, it staggered to the backstop, and everything changed. My head opened up and filled with uncertainty. My body shut down. Panic thickened my throat. My career stumbled off with a single wayward pitch and took parts of my life with it, parts I loved and parts I hated and parts I'd not even known were there. Anxiety came like a dam break, and then I was wading in it, one sodden step at a time, sloshing about and slowly… slowly… drowning in it.

I could throw a ball once. I could pitch. Man, could I pitch. And then I couldn't. I didn't know why I couldn't. More than a decade later, I don't know why I couldn't.

They said I was the next Sandy Koufax, he being the greatest left-hander to ever grip a baseball. Then I wasn't.

I'd known where my life was headed, at least where I expected it to be headed, and then I didn't.

I'd known where the fight was because it was in front of me, usually sixty feet, six inches away, precisely that distance. Sometimes, in my youth, the fight had been closer, much closer, with wild eyes and boozy breath and a bear-trap temper. Those weren't the real fights, though. Those would come later, and they would be everywhere, and nowhere, and merciless, when the boggy anxiety would rise and I couldn't hear fifty thousand people screaming over the racket in my own head. I wouldn't win. I'd lose and fall deeper, farther into the darkness, where the air thinned and the simplest act—throwing a baseball—became a test of my manhood. And my resolve. My goddamned sanity.

A standard major-league pitcher's mound is ten inches tall—just high enough to afflict me with baseball's version of altitude poisoning.

In the middle of it, a man at Shea Stadium held up a handmade sign. There were thousands of people up there, and the month was October, so the place was loud and edgy, as New York could be. It seemed they were all yelling at me, drawing out the final syllable. "You suck, An-keeeel!" "You're a freak, An-keeeel!" "Mix in a strike, An-keeeel!" I never, ever looked up into the crowd in those moments. I was tougher than that. I was too sure of myself. Those people couldn't touch me. This time I looked up.

My career was coming apart. My team could not rely on me. I hadn't slept in days. My father was in jail and calling me at all hours, pulling me backward again. My mother kept asking if I was, you know, all right, like maybe I'd contracted some unspeakable neuromuscular condition from the dugout floor. Reporters chased me with questions I could not answer. Nobody could. People—friends, even—would simply stare, which was bad enough. Others would say kind things, encouraging things, but they didn't know, and it felt like pity, and that I could not endure.

What could a few thousand strangers say that I didn't already know?

So I looked up.

Above the grinning man, atop arms extended like a V, the sign announced, "Ankiel is an X-file."

He had no idea. None of them did.

People were watching, so I laughed. But that was a lie.

You should know, perhaps, that I won in the end, or felt as though I did. I surrendered finally and chose a new fight, one that didn't spawn ritual nightmares, or chase me into a vodka bottle, or have me counting breaths backward from one hundred to one, then starting over, all day long, just to make it to game time, just to have my mind right, only to have it all fall apart anyway.

That was the lousy part, and that's a significant part of the story, how it began on an otherwise perfect afternoon at a ballpark in St. Louis, where the game is religion and the players its dutiful and celebrated servants. Unless one were to, say, wear the Cardinals' sacred colors and stand in the middle of an event known as game one of the playoffs and commence to throw pitch after pitch to the backstop.

That was eleven days before the guy with the sign sought entry into my psyche and before at least a dozen pitches that might as well have been sprayed from an untended fire hose. If he'd really wanted inside my head, he would have needed an affinity for crowds—there was a lot going on in there.

Still short of my prime, and bulletproof, and just then coming upon manhood, still out in front of all that pursued me, I would not be great, not in the way anyone might have foretold. I should have pitched forever.

I didn't pitch forever. I never really pitched again. I survived for a while, just barely. I told myself I was pitching, and that would have to do.

They call it "the Thing" because there's no diagnosis and no cure, and so they kick it around and try not to look at it and do not become so friendly as to actually give it a name because "anxiety disorder" is not the kind of phrase one slips into a baseball conversation. Just the Thing. Basically, it turns a regular guy with a physical gift into the jackknife in the corner surrounded by dog-eared self-help books, one eye on the clock, trying to get his head straight and nerves settled by game time.

I'd seen them before, the poor souls. And what I'd think was Damn, man, get ahold of yourself and just throw the baseball. Then the Thing came for me.

I swore it would not beat me. I'd worked too hard for too long to be anything other than the next Koufax, or the first Ankiel, or whatever was going to come of it. I would throw precise, relentless, plain mean fastballs past men who could do nothing about it. I would stand on a thousand more pitchers' mounds, grow old on them, and smart, and rich, and I would be special. I'd earned that. I would become what I'd dreamed myself becoming when I was a boy, when the car would pull into the driveway in the dead of night, and the front door would slam, and the shouting would start, and the violence would come, and I would have nowhere to go but a ball field on a summer's morning. That was the vision I'd sleep to, or try to, beneath the racket. I would take hold of whatever I came up against, and I would cast it aside and keep going, and I would put another mile between me and wherever my father was.

I would be better. I would win. I would be fearless.

But that was a lie.

Never would I understand if the Thing had simply happened upon me, or if I'd somehow summoned it in a particularly vulnerable patch, or if it had hunted me for years—waiting, plotting, and taking aim. It would not speak to me. It would not explain. What I knew was that it came for me. Just, it seemed in those lonely days, for me.

It would not drag me into my youth, into the terrible truth of where I'd been and what I'd seen and where I'd failed. But it did, because that was a lie too. Why hadn't I stood up to him? What kind of man—what kind of person—had I left back there? Who was I hiding?

Fifteen years later, I know where it sent me, and what it made of me, and most days I accept that. True, sometimes I wonder what would have come had the Thing never been, or if it had been coming for me all along and this was the life I was supposed to have instead of the one I made the best of. But not often anymore. See, I feel like I won. Like I found a cure. Not a cure, exactly; a way around it. All I had to do was look up. All I had to do was stop the fear from rising.

Take the ball, Rick. Take the ball and throw it.

"Ankiel is an X-file."

That's funny. Today, it is honestly funny.

This is why.



It's a long story, really, about baseball and me, about baseball saving me and then leaving me on my own. It's about my father and me, I suppose. It's about the monster that came to get me, and a man named Harvey Dorfman and me against the monster, and how a monster built over a lifetime cannot be killed with a single pitch or a thousand or in a day or over a baseball season or maybe ever. It's about living with the shame of a monster that's big enough to fill the world and small enough to fit inside one's head, that's invisible and plain as a man's pitching line, that has no voice and yet screamed me awake in the night.

That's how I saw it. Of course, most of the time I was the only one who could, which was a relief and a curse. I lived with it, denied it, hid it, treated it, and swung swords at it until I couldn't.

Then morning would come, as would the new struggle, same as the old struggle.

The rest saw not the monster but its casualty, that being me and whatever shrapnel was in the box score. That's not to say I was an innocent bystander. It was my brain, after all. My body. My arm. My fear. It was mine to bear and so mine to slay. And, hell, at the end of the day it was just a baseball game, just… a… freakin'… baseball… game, that was all, and I'd shrug and smile and move along, except it meant everything to me and I didn't want to shrug or smile or move along. I wanted blood, which was life as both the monster and its casualty, and the blood that was shed was always mine.

Before that, I was a kid with a fastball, a curveball, a future, and a way of smirking at the world. It couldn't get to me. Nothing could. I'd already taken the world's best shot: my dad.

The monster—the yips, the Thing, the phenomenon; it had a few aliases—arrived on a Tuesday afternoon in October, the end of my rookie year. I'd made 30 major-league starts, won 11 of them, struck out 194 batters in 175 innings, was the winning pitcher in the game that clinched the National League Central Division title, and would be runner-up for National League Rookie of the Year. I felt like I was getting better as the season went on, thanks to Dave Duncan, the pitching coach, and Mike Matheny, the veteran catcher who could call a game and soothe a rookie's occasionally jumpy heartbeat. I even hit .250 with a couple home runs.

Then I had a bad day. A very bad day.

I was not hurt. I was not afraid. I was not sick or distracted or particularly anxious. There was no terrible accident. That said, days on ball fields generally don't come much worse. In game one of the National League Division Series, on a warm and sunny afternoon with a slight cross breeze, in front of exactly 52,378 people, including my mom, I stood on the mound at Busch Stadium, convinced I would be great. That it was my destiny.

And then I was not great. I don't know why. I only know what happened and what it did to me (or what I did to it, as I'm sure there's a conversation to be had about that), where it led me and where it left me.

The date was October 3, 2000, a box on a calendar page. Innocent enough. I was twenty-one years old and enjoying a life fresh to the big leagues.


  • "Revealing, vulnerable, and triumphant, Rick Ankiel and Tim Brown provide a poignant reminder in this age of statistics- and computer-driven analysis that it is real people who play the game. Real people, carrying family history, huge expectations, and lifelong dreams along for the ride. This book will change how you watch the game and those who play it." --Jim Abbott, former MLB pitcher and bestselling author of Imperfect
  • "Each year lots of baseball books roll off the presses. Some are very good, a few are extraordinary. Rick Ankiel's memoir falls into the second category. A story of rare promise and bewildering pain. The heartbreak, the humiliation and the high points - fewer than expected, but memorable still. All told with honesty, humility, empathy and an eye for telling detail. A winding and often bumpy road that ends with perhaps that best of victories - good-natured acceptance and the personal understanding and insight that goes with it."--Bob Costas
  • "In Tim Brown's expert hands, RIck Ankiel's journey is heartbreaking, unsentimental, and, in an entirely unexpected way, victorious. A superb book not just about the glory of baseball, but about how we repair ourselves."-Mark Kriegel, author of Namath, Pistol, and The Good Son
  • "Rick Ankiel has always been a true phenomenon. He had phenomenal talent, and when he faced hardship, he proved he had phenomenal character too. His book is a candid and powerful story of his pitching success, his cruel and dramatic career derailment, and his historic resurrection as a power-hitting outfielder. Your lasting impression is of Rick the winner and champion husband, father, and person, with a story that impacts us all."--Tony La Russa, Hall of Fame manager
  • "Many of us took one look at Rick Ankiel's extraordinary athletic gifts and figured that he had it made. But his great talent did not account for the inexplicable demons that he had to endure, from an abusive home to a career-altering mystery. The Phenomenon is bravely candid about his challenges in life and his journey through a game that humbles all of us."--Hall of Famer Joe Torre, four-time World Series Championship manager and MLB's chief baseball officer
  • "A great story of a young man's ability to persist in the face of complicated and difficult issues--I admire him for it and the success he eventually achieved."--Bill Parcells, Hall of Fame NFL coach
  • "The Phenomenon is a must-read for anyone who has wrestled with his own demons--which is everyone. I couldn't put this book down, maybe because I knew parts of the story, but more likely because it displays the power of the human spirit to overcome the odds."--Mike Matheny, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals
  • "Ankiel's battle with this mysterious mental block and his decision to remake his baseball career as an outfielder is tolf in The Phenomenon, an out-of-the-ordinary story of baseball courage and determination."--Christian Science Monitor
  • "A former Major League Baseball player offers an affecting account of his unique professional career and dramatic personal life. Most baseball memoirs hold little appeal for readers who are not already devoted fans. With assistance from sports journalist Brown (co-author, with Jim Abbott: Imperfect: An Improbable Life, 2012), Ankiel offers more... A solid sports memoir that explores more than just sports."--Kirkus
  • "In his surprisingly open and compelling memoir-a standout in the motley genre of athlete autobiographies-Ankiel details his many efforts to cope with the problem, from drinking to drugs to a brief retirement to deciding that he'd rather forget pitching altogether, returning as a hitter and an outfielder instead."—The Atlantic
  • "This book is a moving read as Ankiel bares his soul and provides the reader with an intimate look at the psychological unraveling he experienced... To throw in a baseball cliché, Ankiel left it all on the field with this book. Don't miss it."—Washington Times
  • "I strongly recommend this book. I'm a sucker for happy endings, and this isn't your classic happy ending. But Ankiel the hitter, and Ankiel in his post-career world, and Ankiel the dad breaking the chain with his own father, is one redemptive story."—Peter King, Sports Illustrated
  • "For those interested in the psychology of baseball, Ankiel's book bats close to .400."—St Louis Dispatch
  • "What happened to Rick Ankiel is one of the more remarkable stories in baseball history... This riveting story will make you feel Ankiel's anxiety about battling this mysterious affliction."—Chicago Tribune
  • "It's a much-needed narrative in the sports memoir genre, one that tackles the topic of mental health, something only a few books before it have done"—Literary Hub

On Sale
Apr 18, 2017
Page Count
304 pages

Rick Ankiel

About the Author

Rick Ankiel was a major-league pitcher and outfielder with the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals, among other teams, for 11 seasons. Born in 1979, Ankiel debuted with the Cardinals a month after his 20th birthday, and became the first major-league player since Babe Ruth to win at least 10 games as a pitcher and hit at least 50 home runs. He retired as a player in 2013. He is currently a studio analyst for Fox Sports Midwest. With his wife, Lory, and sons Declan and Ryker, Ankiel lives in Jupiter, Fla.

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