OBSERVATIONS: The hardest thrower in the history of baseball

 

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave wondering how in the name of Stan Musial will the St. Louis Cardinals play 60 games without collapsing in exhaustion after playing beaucoup doubleheaders?

—For those who saw the classic baseball movie ‘Bull Durham’ and the wild-throwing pitcher Nuke Laloosh, well, there was a real-life Nuke Laloosh.

In fact, the Laloosh character was based on a minor-league pitcher named Steve Dalkowski.

There is a thoroughly entertaining book just released called ‘Dalko,’ the story about pitcher Steve Dalkowski. Everybody who ever stepped into the batter’s box said he threw harder than any pitcher in the history of the game — harder than Walter Johnson, harder than Sandy Koufax, harder than Sudden Sam McDowell, harder than Herb Score, harder than Nolan Ryan.

Unfortunately, he also was the wildest pitcher in the history of the game. In one minor league game he struck out 24. . .and walked 18. He was as likely to throw a pitch over the backstop as he was to throw one in the strike zone.

At New Britain (Conn.) High School he threw back-to-back no-hitters and struck out 39. He also walked 17. In another game that season he struck out 24. And walked 18.

That’s why he never made it to the big leagues. He never consistently found the strike zone, more likely to hit a hot dog vendor than a catcher’s mitt, and spent his entire baseball life in the Baltimore Orioles minor league system.

During his rookie season at Kingsport (Tenn.) he struck out 121 batters in 62 innings. And he walked 129.

During his minor league career, he struck out 1,324 batters in 954 innings, walked 1,236, hit 37 and threw 145 wild pitches.

He appeared in one major league park, one inning of an exhibition game in Baltimore’s old Memorial Stadium one day before the 1963 season against the Cincinnati Reds.

He faced Alex Grammas, Dee Fondy and Don Hoak and struck out the side on 12 pitches.

Said Grammas, later a coach and right hand man to Reds manager Sparky Anderson, “I’ve been playing pro ball for 10 years and nobody can throw a baseball harder than that.”

And Hoak? “That kid doesn’t throw as hard as Herb Score. He throws harder.”

He also had a drinking problem and after leaving baseball he worked as a migrant farmer and lived on the streets.

“I never drank on the day of a game. But before or after was a different story,” he said. “It seems like I always had to close the bar.”

Dalkowski, 80, died in April from the COVID-19 virus.

Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry was impressed and said, “Dalkowski was the fastest and wild pitcher who ever lived.”

—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, who managed Steve Dalkowski in the minors: “He was unbelievable. He threw a lot faster than Nolan Ryan. That’s hard to believe, but he did.”

—Speaking of strikeouts and Steve Dalkowski, how about this one?

Jim Maloney shares the one-game nine-inning strikeout record for the Reds with 16. Who was the other guy? Don Gullett? Wayne Simpson, Tom Seaver, Jose Rijo? Luis Castillo? No, no, no, no, no.

Pete Harnisch (no, not him) was the scheduled starter for the Reds in St. Louis on September 29, 2000, but couldn’t make it. Ron Villone, The Big Rig, was a quick replacement and he struck out 16 Cardinals.

What is amazing is that Villone, mostly a relief pitcher was 10-and-10 with a 5.43 ERA. For the season he struck out 77 and walked 78.

But but on this night, a 148-pitch night, he gave up two hits and survived two walks in the ninth inning for a 2-1 victory. It was one of two complete games in his 15-year career and he never struck out more than eight in any other appearance.

Less than two months after the season Villone was traded to the Colorado Rockies for two minor-leaguers who never made the majors. Ah, fame is fleeting.

—Jim Katt pitched 25 years in the majors leagues and his fastball couldn’t raise a welt.

Asked how he survived 25 years, he said, “If you are left handed and can walk, chew gum and throw strikes, you can pitch forever.”

—QUOTE: From pitcher Jim Kaat, one-time pitching coach for the Reds: “I’ll never be considered one of the all-time greats and maybe not even one of the all-time goods.” (Kaat was a ‘tweener,’ right between good and great.)

—The Detroit Tigers, losers of 114 games last season, split this season’s series with the Cincinnati Reds, 3-and-3.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have now lost 20 straight games to the Cleveland Indians.

Is that a record? No, but close. The 1969-70 Baltimore Orioles beat the Kansas Royals 23 straight times.

And there is another on-going streak. The New York Yankees have beaten the Baltimore Orioles 18 straight.

The Cincinnati Reds are on the list, too, in a negative way. From May 8, 2001 to August 13, 2003, the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Reds 16 straight.

Arizona pitchers had a 2.03 earned run average during those 16 games and it included a game during which Randy Johnson struck out 20 batters in nine innings.

—They say there are some strange things in the Chicago River and they better check to see if St. Louis pitcher Roel Ramirez took a swim in it Saturday night.

On Sunday afternoon Ramirez made his major debut in the fifth inning against the White Sox.

First batter, Yoan Moncado. Home run.

Second batter, Yasmani Grandal. Home run.

Third batter, Jose Abreu. Home run.

Fourth batter, Eloy Jiminez. Home run.

Yes, back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs. Four up and four out of the park.
It was the 10th time in Major League history a team hit four in a row and the White Sox were the last to do it 12 years ago.

When Moncado connected to start the carnage he was 0 for 12 and 7 for 42 with one home run. The four homers traveled a total of 1,616 feet with Grandal’s covering 425 feet. They tried to interview Ramirez after the game but he was in shock, curled in a corner in a fetal position. Not really, but that’s what I would have done.

—QUOTE: From Babe Ruth, the Picasso of home run hitters: “I had one superstition. I made sure I touched all the bases when I hit a home run.” (The Chisox touched them all 16 straight times.)

—Picked a horse named Slip Sliding Away in the first race at muddy Monmouth Park Sunday. Guess what he did? Yep, he slipped, he slid and he lost going away. Paul Simon would not have been proud of him.

—QUOTE: From comedian Henny Youngman: “I bet a horse at 10 to 1 and he came in at a quarter past four.” (Been there, done that, Henny.)

3 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: The hardest thrower in the history of baseball

  • August 16, 2020 at 8:51 pm
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    Always a lot of great facts and anecdotes on off days. Hal, you’re the best.

    Reply
  • August 17, 2020 at 9:03 am
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    Great stuff, Hal! Thanks.

    Reply
  • September 25, 2020 at 4:33 pm
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    Hello Hal, found this site and endowed the article on Dalkowski being from
    Aberdeen, S. Dak. where he played and I saw him a couple times.
    Roger

    Reply

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