Steve Dalkowski

From BR Bullpen


Steven Louis Dalkowski Jr.

BR Minors page

Biographical Information[edit]

Known for a legendary fastball, Steve Dalkowksi pitched nine seasons in the minors, primarily in the Baltimore Orioles organization. However, he also struggled with wildness (leading three different minor leagues in bases on balls) and only briefly pitched as high as the AAA level.

Signed by Orioles scout Frank McGowan for a $4,000 bonus, Dalkowski made his pro debut in 1957 with the Kingsport Orioles, going 1-8 with a 8.13 ERA and league-leading 129 walks in 62 innings. However, he allowed just 22 hits and also had 121 strikeouts. He had 32 more walks than anyone else, was third in the Appalachian League in whiffs and tied for 4th in losses. His 39 wild pitches were more than double runner-up Bill Parsons' 18. One game, he fanned 24 Bluefield Dodgers but walked 18 and lost, 9-8.

He split 1958 between the Aberdeen Pheasants (3-5, 6.39), Wilson Tobs (0-1, 12.21) and Knoxville Smokies (1-4, 7.93), with 245 walks, 53 hits and 232 strikeouts in 118 innings for the year. He finished in the top 10 in walks in both the Northern League (8th) and South Atlantic League (3rd). Pitching for the Pheasants on May 17th, 1959, he had perhaps the highlight of his career, throwing a no-hitter against the Grand Forks Chiefs. In that game, he struck out 21 while walking 8 but holding the Chiefs scoreless. He finished the season 4-3 with a 5.64 ERA for the Pheasants (110 BB, 99 K in 59 IP) and 0-4 with a 12.96 ERA for the Pensacola Dons (80 BB, 43 K in 25 IP). He was 5th in the Northern League in walks.

Dalkowski led the California League with 262 walks (in 170 innings; 96 more walks than runner-up Gary Kroll) in 1960 while also striking out a career-high 262. He was 7-15 with an improved 5.14 ERA for the Stockton Ports. He tied John Tupper for the league lead in losses. He paced the Northwest League with 196 base on balls (in 103 innings) the following year, striking out 150 and going 3-12 with a hefty 8.39 ERA for the Tri-City Atoms. He was 46 walks ahead of runner-up Dick Burwell that season.

Dalkowski put together perhaps his finest season for the Elmira Pioneers under manager Earl Weaver in 1962, going 7-10 with a respectable 3.04 ERA; he also recorded 192 strikeouts while walking 114 over 160 innings. He finished 10th in the Eastern League in ERA, first in shutouts (6), was one walk behind leader Dave McNally and tied Sonny Siebert for third in strikeouts (trailing Bob Heffner and McNally).

However, during Spring Training the following year, Dalkowski injured his elbow, and he only threw 41 innings that summer. In 1964, he was 8-4 with a 2.83 ERA, 141 strikeouts and 62 walks in 108 IP for Stockton, 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA for Elmira and 2-1 with a 8.25 ERA for the Columbus Jets; he fanned 166 and walked 92 in 135 innings for the season. He remained in the Orioles system until 1965, when he was released after a 6-5, 5.14 start for the Atoms. He was signed by the California Angels. After just 6 starts in the Angels' organization (2-3, 4.74 for the San Jose Bees, 34 BB, 33 K in 38 IP), he was let go, and his career was over.

During his career, Dalkowski struck out 1,396 batters in 995 innings, a rate of 12.63 per nine innings. Unfortunately, he also walked 1,354, which is 12.25 per nine innings. In his first five seasons, he averaged 17 walks and 15 strikeouts per 9 innings. He gave up 682 hits and was 46-80 with a 5.59 ERA.

After baseball, Dalkowski became a migrant farm worker for a time. However, his struggles with alcohol, which he battled while playing ball, became much worse, and he suffered from alcohol-related dementia years later. In 2020, he died in an assisted living facility in his hometown of New Britain, CT where he had been living since 1994, when he became infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus, which complicated his pre-existing health conditions. He was 80.

There is some speculation that he served as inspiration for the character "Nuke LaLoosh" in the 1988 movie Bull Durham; writer and director Ron Shelton played in the Orioles organization a couple of years after Dalkowski was there, and heard plenty of stories about him from former teammates and coaches.


Further Reading[edit]

  • Bill Dembski, Alex Thomas and Brian Vikander: Dalko: The Untold Story of Baseball's Fastest Pitcher, Influence Publishers, Nashville, TN, 2020. ISBN 978-1-64542-710-0
  • Steve Gardner: "Steve Dalkowski, Inspiration for ‘Bull Durham,’ Dies at 80", USA Today, April 25, 2020. [1]
  • Pat Jordan: "The Wildest Fastball Ever: Steve Dalkowski's pitches didn't rip through the air, they appeared under mystified Ted Williams' chin as if by magic", Sports Illustrated, October 12, 1970. [2]
  • Pete McEntegart: "The Wild One: He became a legend throughout baseball by throwing the fastest fastball ever - and rarely getting it over the plate. Then he flamed out, on and off the field", Sports Illustrated, June 30, 2003. [3]
  • Ron Shelton: "Stuff of legends", The Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2009. [4]
  • Steve Treder: "Delving into the Dalkowski depths", The Hardball Times, May 29, 2007. [5]

Related Sites[edit]