Dalkowski: Fastest Pitcher Ever?

the code.jpgRight now, I am reading the book The Code: Baseball’s Unwritten Rules and Its Ignore-at-Your-Own-Risk Code of Conduct by Ross Bernstein. It’s a facinating book, very interesting. In this book, I discovered the story of a pitcher named Steve Dalkowski.

He was a minor league pitcher from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. He is considered by some to be the fastest pitcher ever. It was reported that his fastball reached 110 mph, but others think it was only 105 mph. Thing is, the radar guns back then were not that good, so there are very few accurate readings of him.

He was never able to get to the majors because though he was very fast, he was also very wild. In 1960, he had 262 strikeouts in the California League. But he also gave up 262 walks!

When he was first signed by the Orioles, he threw a pitch that took off a part of a hitter’s ear and gave him a concussion. He would stand 15 feet away from a wooden fence and throw a pitch through it. He also threw a ball over a fence 440 feet away.

Though he was insanely fast (many players were utterly scared of him), he was terribly wild. Some think that his confidence deteriorated because he was scared about killing someone with his pitches. Evidently, he hurt his arm in his first major league call-up, and never came back effectively. The rest of his story is pretty sad. He had major problems with alcohol. He was placed in Walnut Hill Care Center in 1994. He has since been able to stay sober, but is still suffering from the effects of his alcoholism.

He was certainly very fast, and he had a very interesting career. Here are some facts on Steve Dalkowski:

  • One time in a minor league game, he threw three pitches that went through the backstop.
  • When he was in high school, he threw a no-hit shutout…with 18 strikeouts and 18 walks.
  • One time, he struck out 27 batters but walked 16. He threw 283 pitches. (I think that was an extra inning game)
  • Another time, he got pulled out of the game in the second inning after throwing 120 pitches.
  • When he was in the Northern League, he threw a one-hitter but lost 9-8.
  • At Stockton, he threw a pitch that knocked an umpire back 18 feet, broke his mask in three places, and put him in the hospital for three days with a concussion.
  • In a game in the California League, he walked nine batters, gave up only 4 hits, and struck out 19. But he lost 8-3.

Some pretty crazy stuff there!

10 Comments

Wow! I don’t think today that a pitcher who threw that fast, but was that wild, would be allowed in so many games. It is sad that his life hit such a low point. Thanks for telling us about him.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Wow! Sounds like a good book.

Bigpapi72, http://bostonsports.mlblogs.com/

Interesting story. Sometimes we forget how hard it is to make it to the bigs even if you have some talent. There are so many guys out there who had fleeting success, only to end up not fulfilling their potential.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Wow…great tidbit.
Cue the “Wild Thing” music!

http://thehappyyoungster.mlblogs.com/

That’s some interesting stuff. I might have switched positions if I were him since he seemed like he had bad control problems. The outfield or maybe shortstop would have been likely destinations (I say shortstop because of his arm and how fast he could get it to the 1st baseman).
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

JULIA, definitely wouldn’t be allowed in this time, not unless he could control himself.

BIG PAPI 72, it really is. Kind of strange, lots of beanball stories, but interesting.

JANE, yeah, that’s true.

HAPPY, definitely!

DARION, yeah, that’s what I thought of, too. He might have been great in the outfield or something.

Great story. Makes me think of Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham, and the conversation by the coaches after his start. Something like:
He walked 18.
New league record!
Struck out 18.
Another new league record! In addition he hit the sportswriter, the public address announcer, the bull mascot twice… Also new league records!

Funny you bring that up, Kathy, because that character is actually loosely based on Dalkowski!

That is funny! Thanks for letting me know. I do LOVE that crazy movie.

Wow. I only heard names like Satchel PAige and Bob Gibson. I have to look this guy up.
http://metsmainman.mlblogs.com

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