The Miramichi, N.B., native and current vice-president of Baseball Canada never had the opportunity to compete against Greg Maddux, but he greatly admired the soon-to-be Cooperstowner and never missed a chance to watch him to pitch.
“Greg Maddux was always a favourite of mine,” said Dickson, who pitched professionally for 11 seasons. “For a guy like me [six-foot right-hander], I was trying to find someone who was comparable to me from a stature size and I just admired his style of pitching . . . He knew how to pitch to contact and he had pinpoint control. When I watched him I thought, ‘I want to be just like this guy.'”
Nearly seven years younger than Maddux, Dickson began following the 300-game winner prior to being drafted by the Angels in 1994. Unfortunately, in his parts of four seasons in the big leagues, Dickson pitched exclusively in the American League, while Maddux toed the rubber in the Senior Circuit, so the two never faced off against each other. Both Dickson and Maddux were, however, selected to participate in the 1997 all-star game at Jacobs Field in Cleveland.
“At some of the events prior to the game, in traveling back and forth to the field, I was on the same bus as him and I sat close by, but I was 24 years old and a little bit shy,” recalled Dickson. “I kind of kick myself now because that was the opportunity to sit and talk with him and I never did it and I wish I could do that again, but I was a little nervous in front of a guy that I had a lot of respect for.”
Also at that all-star game, Dickson shared a dugout with Frank Thomas, who will be honoured with Maddux and Tom Glavine in Cooperstown on July 27. Dickson held The Big Hurt to two hits in seven at bats during his career. The two hits were both doubles.
“Somebody asked me about Frank Thomas earlier today and I couldn’t remember how I pitched him,” admitted Dickson prior to Saturday’s Baseball Canada National Teams Awards Banquet. “Obviously, he was an intimidating guy, a big guy. If I had to take a guess at how I pitched to him, I’d say that I was probably trying to crowd him inside and not let him get those big arms extended, and I would say the two doubles he hit off me were the times when I didn’t quite get in there enough. Considering who he is and the size he is, I’ll take the two doubles. That’s better than two home runs.”
Being selected to that all-star game also gave Dickson the chance to play for Joe Torre, who was managing the American League squad. Torre was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee along with fellow managers Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox in December.
Dickson remembers Torre calling him into his office the day before the game to let him know that he was going to try to get him into the game, but that there were no guarantees.
“He said, ‘We’re going to do our best to get you in there, but you’ve got some tough competition.’” recalled Dickson. “I understood, but you’re still hopeful that you’re going to get into the game. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way . . . but he just had a way of kind of making you feel comfortable. He’s a good communicator in the sense that he never even had to have that meeting. He could’ve just played the game out and if I didn’t get in, I didn’t get in. So I appreciated the few minutes that he took to let me know.”