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

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

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

The Sporting News ran the headline “Living Legend Released” when his profession, spent largely in 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 in the Orioles’ group for a number of seasons after Dalkowski’s departure and heard tales of his pitching days. Shelton saved his legend alive when he loosely drew on Dalkowski’s exploits in creating the Bulls’ hard-throwing pitcher Nuke LaLoosh, portrayed by Tim Robbins.

But for the entire consideration he acquired, Dalkowski’s flaws on the ball area 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 in town with alcohol-induced dementia.

The trigger was issues of the coronavirus, his sister, Patti Cain, stated.

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

He turned a star pitcher in highschool and signed with the Orioles after graduating in 1957, receiving a $four,000 bonus.

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

The following season, pitching for three 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 longer term Hall 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 in order to search out house plate.

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

George Vecsey, who coated the sport for Newsday and later turned a sports activities columnist for The New York Times, interviewed Dalkowski earlier than his induction in 2009 into the Shrine of the Eternals, an alternate hall of fame in Pasadena, Calif. His account recalled the moment when Roger Maris came to the plate.

“Maris was a legend for having hit a record 61 homers in 1961; Dalkowski was a legend for being perhaps the fastest pitcher ever,” he wrote. “When they met, Maris was theoretically standing near home plate in Miami, but his fanny was more or less in the Bahamas.”

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

“After the game, the Yankees stars all yukked it up in the clubhouse, imitating each other’s bailout moves,” Vecsey remembered.

But Dalkowski injured his elbow later in the game and never regained the speed on his fastball. He also pitched briefly for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the California Angels organizations in his last years in the minors.

He struck out 1,324 batters and walked 1,236 in 956 innings with a career record of 46-80, according to Baseball Reference.

After leaving baseball, Dalkowski picked vegetables alongside migrant workers in the San Joaquin Valley in California. But he never found a steady job. His drinking continued, and he lost touch with his family. When his sister learned of his whereabouts in 1994, she brought him back to New Britain and placed him in the nursing home.

Dalkowski’s first marriage, to Linda Moore, ended in divorce. His second wife, Virginia Billingsley, died in 1994. He had no children, and his sister was his only immediate survivor.

Shelton reflected on Dalkowski’s life in an article for The Los Angeles Times in 2009.

“It’s the gift from the gods — the arm, the power,” he wrote. “That is what haunts us. He had it all and didn’t know it. That’s why Steve Dalkowski stays in our minds. He had the equivalent of Michelangelo’s gift but could never finish a painting.”

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