Steve Dalkowski, Mannequin for Erratic Pitcher in ‘Bull Durham,’ Dies at 80

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Steve Dalkowski, a left-handed pitcher with an unimposing physique, spent 9 seasons within the minor leagues with out stepping into a significant league sport. However nearly everybody within the baseball world of the 1950s and early ’60s appeared to have heard tales of his extraordinary present.

Since radar weapons had but to reach on the baseball scene, no person might measure Dalkowski’s fastball beneath sport situations with precision. However it grew to become gospel that he might throw nicely in extra of 100 miles an hour.

The Sporting Information ran the headline “Dwelling Legend Launched” when his profession, spent largely within the Baltimore Orioles’ system, got here to an finish in 1966.

Ron Shelton, the director and screenwriter for the 1988 baseball film “Bull Durham,” had been an infielder within the Orioles’ group for a number of seasons after Dalkowski’s departure and heard tales of his pitching days. Shelton stored his legend alive when he loosely drew on Dalkowski’s exploits in creating the Bulls’ hard-throwing pitcher Nuke LaLoosh, portrayed by Tim Robbins.

However for all the consideration he obtained, Dalkowski’s flaws on the ball subject and his troubles off it ruined what may need been a superb profession. He walked batters nearly as typically as he struck them out, and he struggled with alcoholism.

He died on April 19 at 80 at a hospital in New Britain, Conn., after spending his final 26 years at a nursing house within the metropolis with alcohol-induced dementia.

The trigger was problems of the coronavirus, his sister, Patti Cain, mentioned.

Stephen Louis Dalkowski Jr. was born on June 3, 1939, in New Britain. His father was a instrument and die maker and his mom, Adele Zaleski Dalkowski, labored in a ball bearing manufacturing facility.

He grew to become a star pitcher in highschool and signed with the Orioles after graduating in 1957, receiving a $4,000 bonus.

Pitching for the Kingsport, Tenn., group of the Appalachian League in his rookie season, Dalkowski hit a batter within the head, leaving him unconscious. He struck out 121 batters and walked 129 in 62 innings with a 1-Eight report.

The next season, pitching for 3 groups, he struck out 203 batters and walked 207 in 104 innings. And so it went, although he confirmed some enchancment in his management whereas pitching for Baltimore’s farm membership in Elmira, N.Y., for Earl Weaver, the long run Corridor of Fame supervisor of the Orioles. Weaver tried to maintain issues easy for Dalkowski, telling him to focus on taking one thing off his fastball with the intention to discover house plate.

Dalkowski’s pitches, thrown from a 5-foot-11-inch, 175-pound body, had been more likely to arrive excessive or low quite than bearing in on a hitter or straying broad of the plate. However the Yankees had been taking no possibilities after they confronted him in a March 1963 exhibition evening sport with the Orioles when Dalkowski was being thought-about for a name to the majors.

George Vecsey, who lined the sport for Newsday and later grew to become a sports activities columnist for The New York Occasions, interviewed Dalkowski earlier than his induction in 2009 into the Shrine of the Eternals, an alternate corridor of fame in Pasadena, Calif. His account recalled the second when Roger Maris got here to the plate.

“Maris was a legend for having hit a report 61 homers in 1961; Dalkowski was a legend for being maybe the quickest pitcher ever,” he wrote. “After they met, Maris was theoretically standing close to house plate in Miami, however his fanny was roughly within the Bahamas.”

“Three straight pitches,” Dalkowski remarked in that interview, recalling his straightforward strikeout.

“After the sport, the Yankees stars all yukked it up within the clubhouse, imitating one another’s bailout strikes,” Vecsey remembered.

However Dalkowski injured his elbow later within the sport and by no means regained the velocity on his fastball. He additionally pitched briefly for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the California Angels organizations in his final years within the minors.

He struck out 1,324 batters and walked 1,236 in 956 innings with a profession report of 46-80, in keeping with Baseball Reference.

After leaving baseball, Dalkowski picked greens alongside migrant staff within the San Joaquin Valley in California. However he by no means discovered a gentle job. His ingesting continued, and he misplaced contact along with his household. When his sister discovered of his whereabouts in 1994, she introduced him again to New Britain and positioned him within the nursing house.

Dalkowski’s first marriage, to Linda Moore, led to divorce. His second spouse, Virginia Billingsley, died in 1994. He had no kids, and his sister was his solely rapid survivor.

Shelton mirrored on Dalkowski’s life in an article for The Los Angeles Occasions in 2009.

“It’s the present from the gods — the arm, the ability,” he wrote. “That’s what haunts us. He had all of it and didn’t understand it. That’s why Steve Dalkowski stays in our minds. He had the equal of Michelangelo’s present however might by no means end a portray.”

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