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.
Revealing, vulnerable, and triumphant, Tim Brown and Rick Ankiel 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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Like all great baseball stories, this one is metaphysical: a young prodigy stricken with an inexplicable curse. In Tim Brown’s expert hands, Rick Ankiel’s journey is heartbreaking, unsentimental, and, in an entirely unexpected way, victorious. The moral to the story, the test of us all, can’t be measured with a signing bonus or by a radar gun. It’s how we repair ourselves. This is a superb book.
An extraordinary story. Told with honesty, humility, empathy, and an eye for telling detail.