Six years after R.A. Dickey's final Oklahoma City start, his Bricktown legend lives on.
In recent months, he's been introduced to most of the country, emerging as the New York Mets last-chance veteran pitcher who found an unhittable knuckleball and parlayed it into an unlikely All-Star appearance.
But to those in and around the RedHawks organization, it's just the storybook culmination of a long journey, filled with hard work, friendships and plenty of bumps in the road.
Dickey began his Oklahoma City career in 1999 as a hard-throwing first-round pick turned rapid-riser. Drafted in 1996 by the Texas Rangers, he shot through the minor league ranks in less than three years, landing in Bricktown as a 25-year-old prospect with immediate eyes on the major leagues.
Oklahoma City was supposed to be a brief stopgap. But over time, it became the key setting for a major portion of his transformative career.
Dickey spent seven years as a RedHawk, the most of any team during his professional career. He still holds team records for wins (49), losses (40), appearances (141), starts (106), and innings pitched (766.1), with little competition in any category.
“It's a town I've grown very fond of, but nonetheless a place that I associate totally with my mediocrity as a pitcher,” Dickey wrote of Oklahoma City in his autobiography Wherever I Wind Up. “I already own all the RedHawk pitching records. Is this going to be the top line of my baseball resume: a RedHawk immortal?”
Throughout his time in Oklahoma City, stretching from 1999-2006, Dickey was given ample opportunity to pitch in the big leagues. But he struggled every time Texas called him up.
Finally, with backing from pitching coach Orel Hershiser and the Rangers organization, Dickey began the transformation from a traditional pitcher to knuckleballer during the 2005 season.
Throughout his career, Dickey threw a strange pitch that he dubbed “The Thing,” using a forkball-type grip. The plan was to turn it into an accelerated knuckleball that would become his primary pitch.