'Fastest I Ever Saw,' Ted Williams Said of Him

Steve Dalkowski never made the big leagues, but the legend flourished
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 27, 2020 7:45 PM CDT
Nobody Threw Harder Than Steve Dalkowski
Steve Dalkowski, shown in 1959, inspired the character of Nuke LaLoosh in "Bull Durham."   (AP Photo/File)

Steve Dalkowski, a wild left-hander who never made the big leagues despite a consensus that he threw harder than anyone else in baseball, has died. He was 80. He died Sunday at a hospital in Connecticut in New Britain, the AP reports. His sister, Patricia Cain, said he had several pre-existing conditions that were complicated when he became infected with the new coronavirus. Dalkowski had been in assisted living for 26 years because of alcoholic dementia. Long before velocity was tracked with precision, he spawned legends that estimated he approached 110mph or 115mph—some said 125mph. His minor league career inspired the creation of Nuke LaLoosh in the movie Bull Durham. "Fastest I ever saw," then-retired Ted Williams reportedly said after facing Dalkowski during batting practice at spring training in 1963.

"You heard all the stories about Steve, and they were true,” said a teammate. "I can remember him being on the mound one day in Stockton, he wasn’t warmed up and he just threw the ball over our clubhouse behind the wall in left center field. It had to be at least 400 feet." But location was lacking. Dalkowski averaged 17.6 strikeouts and 18.7 walks per nine innings at Class D in 1957, throwing 39 wild pitches in 62 innings as he went 1-8. One day, he struck out 24 and walked 17 or 18—records differ—in an 8-4 loss, hitting four and throwing six wild pitches. At Class C in 1960, he struck out 262 and walked 262 in 170 innings. No matter what Dalkowski tried and the Orioles suggested, he never mastered control. "Stevie was wild," his sister said. "That was part of his thing." He was with the Orioles for big league spring training in 1963 when he injured his pitching arm. "He was measured for a uniform in the morning, and he was pitching against those damn Yankees in the afternoon and hurt his elbow,” Cain said. He never regained his former velocity.

(Read more obituary stories.)

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