Physically, Lincecum is the opposite of the modern pitcher ó the 6-foot-4 Roger Clemens, say, or the 6-foot-6 Roy Halladay, big, broad-shouldered men with tree-trunk legs and ďBaby Got BackĒ posteriors. (The gluteus maximus is one of a pitcherís most important muscles.) Lincecum is 5-foot-11, in spikes, and runaway skinny. Even before the arrival of steroids, we had drifted far from the days when the size of baseballís professional practitioners made them unique among the behemoths of the N.F.L. and N.B.A. Watching Lincecum on the mound, we can once again indulge the fantasy: Hey, that could be me out there, if only I could throw a baseball close to 100 miles an hour and spin it so that it dives and darts like a tropical mosquito.

Of course, it is just fantasy. Lincecum may look ordinary, but consider a few tales of his athletic prowess: His junior year in high school, he went out for the golf team, having played three rounds of golf in his life. Needing to shoot under 40 for nine holes, he carded a 39. (One of Lincecumís former baseball coaches told me that he once saw him drive a golf ball 315 yards, in sandals.) He can do a standing back flip and walk on his hands. (Some sneaker tread marks on his living room wall attest to his ability to do vertical push-ups, too.) He can throw a baseball more than 400 feet on the fly, far enough to clear the outfield wall from the batterís box in any big-league park. Admittedly, these feats donít necessarily conform with our prevailing notion of ďathleticism,Ē which has essentially come to mean strong and fast. But thatís the point: Lincecum has redefined and even reclaimed the term. Heís a pure athlete in the classic, schoolyard sense.