If legends are true, Steve Dalkowski could stand on a pitching mound and throw lightning bolts.
His fastball was the fastest anyone ever heard. Before radar guns, the left-hander reportedly threw 105-110 miles per hour. Some claimed his pitches reached 120 miles per hour. Unlike Sidd Finch, Dalkowski wasn’t an April Fool’s hoax.
He was the inspiration for the Nuke LaLoosh character in Bull Durham. Ron Shelton, a former minor leaguer who wrote and directed the classic baseball movie, never met Dalkowski during his playing days. But he heard enough stories to get the idea.
Earl Weaver said Dalkowski threw harder than Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax and Dick Radatz.
Ted Williams encountered Dalkowski one spring. After getting buzzed under the chin by a fastball in the cage, Williams figured discretion was the better form of valor and called it an afternoon.
Dalkowski pitched nine years on the farm for the Baltimore Orioles from 1957 to 1965. While his record (46-80) and ERA (5.59) were less than impressive, his strikeout numbers (1,396 batters in 995 innings) made the baseball gods cheer. Unfortunately, his walk totals (1,354) made them cringe.
Dalkowski had about as much control off the mound – if that’s possible – and drank himself out of the game.
Everybody knows somebody like Dalbowski. One day, they’re holding the world in the palm of their hand. The next, their holding a brown paper bag of what could have been.
Talent is a funny thing. Respect it, and you can climb the tallest mountain in the world. Waste it, and talent will vanish into thin air.
Jim Rice knows all about the former category. His ticket to immortality is set to be punched after 15 years.
The only way Steve Dalkowski will be getting into Cooperstown is with a ticket. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t a special pitcher, though.
Dalkowski was inducted into Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals — a place for those who don’t quite fit into that other Hall of Fame — along with Roger Maris and Jim Eisenreich in Pasadena, Calif., on Sunday.
Dalkowski got the nod after being on the ballot for the 10 previous years. The most amazing part of the story? Dalkowski was on hand to celebrate the honor. After all those years of hard living, the 70-year-old made the trip from New Britain, Conn., where he lives in a recovery house.
Now he has another place to call home.
Just like Rice will this coming Sunday.
It’s about time.