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Baseball urban legend Steve Dalkowski, rumoured to be the fastest pitcher ever, threw out the first pitch at the Orioles - Mariners game yesterday.

Dalkowski who apparently lived even faster than he threw never made it to the majors, but he served the game well in other ways, being the model for Sidd Finch and 'Nuke' LaLoosh. Rumour has it his fastball reached 110mph, his speed being matched only by wildness, his most famous stat is striking out 262 in 172 innings in the California league while walking the same number. My own favourite Dalkowski number - he once threw a complete game one-hitter, that he lost 9-8.

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Coach - Monday, September 08 2003 @ 10:13 AM EDT (#20496) #
There's three fascinating pages of Dalkowski lore at Baseball Library, excerpted from John Eisenberg's history of the Orioles, From 33rd Street to Camden Yards. Included are some quotes from people who knew him well, like Earl Weaver:

"I got him not to throw every pitch as hard as he could. Plus he got a slider that he could throw over the plate, and in the last 55 innings in Elmira [in í62] he gave up 11 runs and didnít walk many. Struck out 104. He finally understood that at the point of release, you couldnít just rear back and throw as hard as you could. He finally understood that. Steveís IQ was about sixty. I had him tested, and he finished in the bottom one percentile in the ability to learn facts. He was also an alcoholic. It just shows you canít be too smart to throw away that kind of ability."

Rob Neyer mentioned Dalkowski as the inspiration for the fictional Eby Calvin LaLoosh in this column, which suggests that flamethrowing Angels farmhand Bobby Jenks is following the same erratic path.
_Matt - Monday, September 08 2003 @ 05:14 PM EDT (#20497) #
If he threw 110 Richard Griffin is Sir Isaac Newton.
_Buzzy - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 01:16 PM EDT (#20498) #
Matt above is an idiot. Actually he is an ignorant man. Throughout most of the stories you hear concerning Dalkowski the one commonality is that the people that are talking and passing it along are people who would know. Cal Ripken's dad was in the minor league system with Dalkowski, Steve Barber and Bo Belinsky indicated they weren't even on the same planet speed wise as was Steve, Earl Weaver who had an illustrious career as the skipper for the Orioles and coaches and managers ad infinitum all stated he was far and away the fastest pitcher they had ever seen. Much faster than Koufax and Nolan Ryan. The man who was credited with the best "baseball eyes" in history, Ted Williams stepped in and hit (or tried to hit) against Dalkowski and said he would never do it again. He had challenged Dalkowski when he heard of his reputation and Dalkowski "ate him up". No one who saw him could believe the speed or the movemnet on his fastball which unlike just about anyone who had ever pitched used to rise as it closed in on the plate. His ball was known to take off and rise unbelievably dramatically as it got to the plate and that made it very very hard to control. That was the issue that kept him from being a great major league pitcher. That and his alcoholism. Give the guy his dues. He may have been stupid to allow his gifts to rot but he had a unique talent, that being able to throw the ball substantially faster than anyone before or since. When Cal Ripken's dad compared his fastball to Nolan Ryan he didn't say Steve was faster but that he was "much faster than Nolan Ryan". I happen to have had two idols in baseball. Mickey Mantle and Nolan Ryan and I wouldn't give in to some "no one from nowhere being faster than Ryan if there wasn't credible evidence that in fact he was. Live with it, Matt. I'm sure you would have been one of those, " the world is flat" people back in the 1400's because obviously you have to see something before you believe it. What you believe is irrelevant. Steve Dalkowski was far and away the fastest throwing pitcher in the history of this planet. PERIOD!!!!!!!!!
_Mr. Manners - Sunday, October 19 2003 @ 08:58 AM EDT (#20500) #
You know, you really shouldn't show up on a board you don't frequent and start calling people "idiots." ESPECIALLY when you don't have a good grasp on the facts yourself:

His ball was known to take off and rise unbelievably dramatically as it got to the plate

That's physically impossible. Go read _The Physics of Baseball_.
_Matthew Elmslie - Sunday, October 19 2003 @ 12:54 PM EDT (#20501) #
I don't really think you can say that Dalkowski was the model for Finch. Finch was an entirely different kind of character; not wild at all on or off the field.
_Bill ODonnell - Wednesday, November 05 2003 @ 11:24 PM EST (#20502) #
I believe what others say about Dalko being the fastest of all time.
But I've always been intrigued about where that velocity came from.
Steve was not a big guy, and he didn't take care of himself (alcoholism, etc.) Usually powerful trunk and leg action gives that extra speed on the power pitches. I heard one rumor that Steve was "double-jointed" in his arm or shoulder (whatever that is supposed to mean). But he reportedly denied this. Who can analyze his body mechanics and explain where he got all the speed and action on his fastball?
_Necciai27 - Tuesday, February 10 2004 @ 07:45 PM EST (#20503) #
Hey Mr. Manners! It is physically possible to throw a rising fastball, just not if you throw overarm. I've seen pictures of Steve's delivery, and it looked a bit like Satchel Paige's delivery. Paige had a windup like an overarmer, but threw sidearm (and look how much velocity Paige had. Maybe it was the windup?). If Steve threw sidearm or high sidearm or anywhere up to 3/4 delivery, he could easily have thrown a rising fastball because of the inverse spin put on it, or even thrown an up-curve (reverse sinker) with such velocity that it literally didn't have time to curve upwards until midway to the plate. For many years, physicists thought the curveball was an illusion, and I believe some still do. When they calculated that Ken Raffensberger's curveball "didn't curve", they never took into account what spin Raffensberger could put on it from his fingers. However, helicopter pioneer and designer of the first airliner (the Russkyi Knyaz), Igor Sikorsky, always believed that the curveball actually curved. Through his tenacious research, we know that a curve curves and a slider slides. Sikorsky also supported that a fastball could rise, but never researched it. We currently have this debate raging, but what the physicists who don't support it aren't taking into account is the possible spin a riseballer could put on the ball. I've read The Physics of Baseball and, surprisingly, IT doesn't take into account possible spin. In this area, it is flawed. Not to mention, my father's friend was at a game in Stockton and can tell you that the pitch was 20 feet over the plate when it arrived and Dalkowski's point of delivery was a little lower than shoulder-high. So did everyone see an optical illusion when his pitches soared occasionally in excess of 20 feet like the one my father's friend saw. THAT'S physically impossible!
_Necciai27 - Tuesday, February 10 2004 @ 08:24 PM EST (#20504) #
"But I've always been intrigued about where that velocity came from."

It's possible it came from his windup. As I said, the pictures of his delivery show that it is very similar to that to Satchel Paige, who also had astonishing velocity. His arm may have also been similar to Paige's, whose arm had more muscle than the average person's, but less tissue, and was built like a whip. Also let us remember how skinny Stachel was.
_Fastballer - Wednesday, May 05 2004 @ 09:37 AM EDT (#20505) #
I can't even Imagine somebody throwing a 110 mile hour fastball. Steve must have been able to throw 90 miles an hour when he was like ten
_nomo17 - Wednesday, May 19 2004 @ 09:18 PM EDT (#20506) #
"Steve must have been able to throw 90 miles an hour when he was like ten"

That's not true. There is a kid over here in maine that is 17 and throws an average of 95. That is only his average; meaning he throws pitches faster than that, and this is a only high school kid. I definately believe that this guy could throw 110, and yes I do think its possible especially if he isn't pitching over the top like normal pitchers, but sidearm or even 3/4. Geez guys, learn something about baseball.
_Ryan Taylor - Sunday, June 13 2004 @ 03:29 AM EDT (#20507) #
>>His ball was known to take off and rise unbelievably dramatically as it got to the plate"

>That's physically impossible. Go read _The Physics of Baseball_.

Isn't the Physics of Baseball the book that says you can't hit a baseball over 450ft?

It wasn't too long ago scientists were baffled by the existance of the curveball. It was generally thought of as physically impossible and it would have remained that way if it wasn't for the fact that pitchers were throwing them everyday. I wouldn't jump to conclusions and say it's impossible for a pitch to rise at it nears the plate. If Steve Dalkowski was still throwing heat and this movement was observed I'm sure they'd soon offer up a scientific explaination. I think it's very possible that the claims of upward movement are true especialy when you consider the velocites involved. A pitch can do all kinds of crazy stuff (look at a knuckleball).

BTW, I'm not at all suprised that someone like Steve Dalkowski was able to defy rational explaination, look at Babe Ruth. It just comes natural to some people. Steve Dalkowski just instinctively knows how to throw the ball.
_Bill ODonnell - Thursday, June 24 2004 @ 01:22 PM EDT (#20508) #
Are there any films of Dalkowski pitching, when he was in his prime and had the most velocity? If so, how could I obtain a copy? From what I gather, he threw sort of sidearm or near 3/4 . Also, didn't Walter Johnson, the famous Washington fastballer, throw sidearm ?
_Tim Sommer - Tuesday, July 20 2004 @ 01:13 PM EDT (#20509) #
Interesting questions and commentary. I am currently researching for a book I've started about my 8 year professional career in the Orioles organization and Steve will be 1 of 3 legendary baseball characters who never made the bigs. The other two are Billy Scripture and Loyd Forroux. I had the pleasure of playing with all 3.

What I am finding interesting is the amount of misinformation about Steve that creeps into the legend via the internet. My intent is to get the record straight. I found a quote I made up to embellish a story written by my college roommate working for a paper in NY state that won him an AP award 25 years ago. This quote ended up in a recent Boston Glove article about Steve.

Here is an example. Almost all stories attribute Nuke Laloosh's character to be patterned by Ron Shelton to be Steve. Not true. Steve was long gone and working the fields alongside migrant workers when Shelton started in the O's organization. Steve was left handed-Nuke right handed. Nuke drove a sports car-Steve didn't even have a driver's license. He had lost it many years before because of alcohol. He bumnmed rides from everyone. Nuke played the guitar-Steve couldn't carry a tune in a bushel basket. BUT, there is a player who Shelton played several years with all the way up to AAA that has all of Nuke's characteristics. His name is Greg Arnold. After the movie came out, USA Today did a feature article about this connection. I have just received this article from their archives in 1984. I was with Steve the last night he ever threw for the Orioles organization in Lewiston, Idaho and was part of what happened that caused him to be released the next day. The following year I played in Stockton, where Steve was working on the docks, and had many contacts with Steve including the night he broke down and started crying about his brief involvement with the mob and his fear of ever getting to the bigs and the potential problems this would have presented. Interesting stuff. As far as his velocity, believe it. He pitched that final game in Lewiston drunk and struck out 16. Cal Ripken was our manager and he declared that was the hardest he had seen Steve through since his heydays. It was something to see. By the way, there are no known films of him pitching at any point of his life.
_ed kann - Saturday, September 11 2004 @ 04:13 AM EDT (#20510) #
i was in spring training with steve in 1958 and no one could throw as hard as he did it was not even close the only person who could catch him was frank zuppo matt you never ever saw him in his prime so you can comment even vada pinso told me he was much faster than anyone he ever saw
_ed kann - Saturday, September 11 2004 @ 04:20 AM EDT (#20511) #
excuse my spelling i meant to say matt you cannot comment if you never saw him in his prime it was vada pinson who told me not only he was the fastest but there was no one even close
_ed kann - Saturday, September 11 2004 @ 04:28 AM EDT (#20512) #
bill o donnell steve threw overhand right over the top the best ever comment made about him was made by bobby braggen he said steve dalkowski was the only pitcher who could throw strawberrys thru a locomotive
Craig B - Saturday, September 11 2004 @ 09:19 AM EDT (#20513) #
This is the slowest argument of all time.
_Vomisa - Saturday, September 11 2004 @ 12:51 PM EDT (#20514) #
If Steve threw sidearm or high sidearm or anywhere up to 3/4 delivery, he could easily have thrown a rising fastball because of the inverse spin put on it, or even thrown an up-curve (reverse sinker) with such velocity that it literally didn't have time to curve upwards until midway to the plate.

Unless they repealed the laws of gravity while I was asleep, this is still just plain wrong.
_T.J. - Monday, September 13 2004 @ 12:37 PM EDT (#20515) #
Man i cant believe that! and i still dont, but my mind would easly change if i weere to see it with my own eyes. Wheres this guy from!
_T.J. - Monday, September 13 2004 @ 12:37 PM EDT (#20516) #
Man i cant believe that! and i still dont, but my mind would easly change if i weere to see it with my own eyes. Wheres this guy from!
_lefty hurler fr - Wednesday, October 20 2004 @ 02:21 PM EDT (#20517) #
Way back when..I was eighteen and being scouted by the Pirates Org. my Sr Yr of N.C. I was "under the gun". I was told I was topping out at 93mph. I can tell you, point blank, the ball was rising. I had an over the top release point. I saw the ball rise up and in on right handed batters. The ball started out on the ankle level on the outside of the plate and ended around their armpit when it was caught. Maybe it was the humidity there, maybe not. But I saw it. I threw the damn ball and it was something. Explaine that!
_DT - Thursday, October 21 2004 @ 02:23 AM EDT (#20518) #
Here is a quote about Dalko from one of his teammates, Ron Hansen:

"His fastball would rise, on average, a foot to two feet between the pitcher's mound and home plate. It looked like an airplane taking off. And most of the time he never threw it anywhere close to the plate. Sometimes he missed the [batting] cage entirely."
_BBHistoryNut - Sunday, October 24 2004 @ 01:29 AM EDT (#20519) #
It's a well-known fact that a fast pitch softball pitcher can make a ball rise due to spin. Therefore, a sidearm pitcher could likely do the same thing.

Speed combined with specific pressure due to air resistance can work against gravity. Simple physics which, to a much greater extent, explains how airplanes and helicopters are able to fly.

It's certainly not unlikely that Dalkowski could have a rising pitch.

Also, why is it impossible that Shelton's character Nuke Laloosh was based on Dalkowski? His character of Crash Davis was based on a real life catcher from the 50s, long before Shelton played minor league ball. I believe Dalkowski played after the real "Crash Davis" retired.
_TheRedRock - Wednesday, October 27 2004 @ 01:50 AM EDT (#20520) #
Sure you got the supposed rising fastball which is simply a ball that seems to rise to the batter but really just falls slower. But if they're saying they saw it rise from a distance, not from the batter's perspective, then it happened. And maybe the prime factor is abnormal spin. Someone told me about a TV special on rising fastballs and how you need 342 mph to make it rise(or to rise visibly?), but maybe this is at the standard 1800 rpm estimate. What if Dalkowski had a super efficient release, and threw at, say, 6000 rpm? Then you'd only need 103 mph to make it rise like that. 110 > 103, case closed.
After all, if you could "sit in the dugout and hear Dalkowski's pitches buzzing to the plate" it must have lots of spin right? I can definitely throw fastballs that I can hear go "fff" for about the first 20-30 feet. Not that fast, maybe 67 mph. Well it's not bad for someone who doesn't play baseball or softball. Then in a few minutes I'll be throwing the same speed, still got some backspin but can't hear it anymore. Now if you can hear the balls from the dugout buzzing all the way to the plate rather from the thrower's point of view alone, that baby's gotta have tons of spin. I was throwing around my yard today, curious to this, and I took a baseball and threw it softball style underhand, maybe 35 mph. Nice and low, with tons of backspin. But for a ball flying under 3 feet, well it shouldn't stay in the air for half a second like that. It was definitely more than half a second, yet next to the deck clearly under 3 feet. You can throw it with backspin like that a foot in front of your face and feel a nice breeze. Give it some consistency of a real player and a 70 mph underhand pitch, and *boom* underhand rising fastball!

Yup. Check the link near the top. It'll tell of many players' accounts, like watching a ball seem to head for the strike zone then go over your head.
_Charles - Sunday, October 31 2004 @ 02:52 PM EST (#20521) #
If Steve is still alive perhaps he could demonstrate his delivery himself or at least mention some of his upbringing that might tip off where his enormous strength came from. I would love to see PBS do a documentary on Steve before he passes away, this would be fascinating.
_The Red Rock - Monday, November 01 2004 @ 11:04 PM EST (#20522) #
He is alive and at age 65 or so, although definitely unable to deliver very well- he injured a nerve, not just pulling a muscle. It's thought that maybe it was his strong wrists. But this article is an interesting read, it's from 2003 and tells a bit

By the way, Nuke WAS based off Steve. Shelton said he played baseball with Dalko and hence based Nuke offa him.

A fun thing- if you toss the ball up in front of your face with lots of backspin, stitches across, you can feel it sort of fan you :)
oldpro56 - Sunday, March 27 2005 @ 08:15 AM EST (#107634) #
NUKE wasn't based on Dalkowski. Shelton's first year in the O's organization was 1966. Dalkowski was gone the year before. However, he did play three seasons with Greg Arnold. None of NUKE's characteristics match with Dalkowski. Arnold's do.
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