Tag:minor leagues
Posted on: August 9, 2011 10:09 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 10:12 pm

Fastest pitcher of all time? (Part I)

Steve Dalkowski may have been the fastest pitcher of all time, but a quick glance at his lifetime stats will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was definitely the wildest. Over eight seasons (1957-1965) - all in the minors - Dalkowski pitched 995 innings, striking out 1396 (not a misprint) and walking 1354 (also not a misprint) while amassing an otherwise unremarkable 46-80 W-L record with a 5.59 ERA. 

But stats don't really tell the story of "Dalko" like these first-hand accounts...
  • In high school, he had an 18-strikeout, 18-walk no-hitter.
  • On Aug. 31, 1957, in an Appalachian League game, Dalkowski struck out 24, walked 18, hit four batters, threw six wild pitches, and lost 8-4.
  • In one Northern League game, Dalkowski threw a one-hitter, striking out 15, but walked 17 and lost 9-8.
  • In the California League, he threw a four-hitter, striking out 19, but lost 8-3.
  • In one extra-inning game in the Eastern League, Dalkowski struck out 27 batters and walked 16 while throwing 283 pitches.
  • One time he was pulled in the second inning after throwing 120 pitches.
  • A Dalkowski pitch once tore off part of a batter’s ear.
  • A Dalkowski pitch once struck a batter on the helmet and the ball rebounded to second base.
  • In one game, Dalkowski threw three pitches that penetrated the backstop screen, sending fans scattering.
  • On a bet, Dalkowski fired a baseball through a wooden outfield fence.
  • Also on a bet, Dalkowski threw a ball from second base over the roof of a clubhouse beyond the center field fence.
  • Dalkowski misread his catcher’s sign for a curve, and threw the fastball instead. The catcher missed the pitch entirely, and it struck home plate umpire Doug Harvey flush in the mask, breaking it in three places, knocking Harvey back several feet and requiring him to be hospitalized for three days with a severe concussion. 
But more than anything else, it was Dalkowski's freakish velocity that made him special.

Earl Weaver (who managed Dalkowski in the minors):
"He was unbelievable. He threw a lot faster than (Nolan) Ryan. It’s hard to believe but he did.”
Paul Blair, who batted against Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Sam McDowell, Vida Blue, Dick Radatz and Goose Gossage: 
“He threw the hardest I ever saw.”

Cal Ripken Sr. (who caught Dalkowski and whose professional career as a player, manager and coach spanned five decades):
“Steve Dalkowski was the hardest thrower I ever saw.”

And finally, recent Hall of Fame Inductee Pat Gillick (once a teammate of Dalkowski)
“As 40 years go by, a lot of stories get embellished. But this guy was legit. He had one of those arms that come once in a lifetime.”
So how does a once-in-a-generation arm like Dalkowski neve make it to The Show? I'll cover that in Part II.
Category: MLB
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