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From The Washington Post
Steve Dalkowski, who entered baseball lore as the hardest-throwing pitcher in history, with a fastball that was as uncontrollable as it was unhittable and who was considered perhaps the game’s greatest unharnessed talent, died April 19 at a hospital in New Britain, Conn. He was 80.
His family announced his death in a death notice in the Hartford Courant, which reported that he had covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Mr. Dalkowski pitched nine years in the minor leagues in the 1950s and ’60s, mostly in the Baltimore Orioles organization, without reaching the major leagues. Yet, in that time, he amazed — and terrified — countless hitters with a blazing fastball of astonishing speed.
He was not a big man, only about 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, but he possessed lightning in his left arm. He had almost a slingshot motion, somewhere between a sidearm and overhand delivery.
Ted Williams, who played against Bob Feller and other fireballers during his Hall of Fame career, was said to have faced Mr. Dalkowski in one spring training and called him the “fastest ever.” Another major leaguer, Eddie Robinson, swung and missed at 10 pitches before he could make weak contact with one of Mr. Dalkowski’s fastballs.
“As 40 years go by, a lot of stories get embellished,” Pat Gillick, Mr. Dalkowksi’s minor league teammate and a Hall of Fame general manager, told Sports Illustrated in 2003. “But this guy was legit. He had one of those arms that come once in a lifetime.”
People who saw Mr. Dalkowski pitch said he threw at least as hard. Radar guns were not in use when Mr. Dalkowski pitched, but his catcher in the Orioles system, Cal Ripken Sr., estimated his fastball was between 110 and 115 mph.
Ripken spent decades in baseball, eventually becoming manager of the Orioles. He saw Sandy Koufax, Goose Gossage and J.R. Richard pitch, and he watched from the third-base coach’s box as Nolan Ryan threw fastballs clocked at more than 100 mph.
“Steve Dalkowski was the hardest thrower I ever saw,” Ripken said.
In one game Ripken was catching, he called for a breaking pitch. Mr. Dalkowski missed the sign and threw his fastball instead. It hit the umpire in the mask, breaking it in three places. The umpire was knocked unconscious.
In 1957, when Mr. Dalkowski was 18 and in his first professional season, he tore off part of a batter’s ear with an errant pitch. That batter was Bob Beavers, then in the Dodgers organization.
That was Mr. Dalkowski’s problem throughout his baseball career: He had the best arm in the game, but he could not control his pitches.
In high school, he pitched a no-hitter in which he walked 18 batters and struck out 18. Another time, in an extra-inning minor league game, he walked 18 hitters and struck out 27 while throwing 283 pitches — far more than a team would allow a pitcher to throw today.
In 1960, when he was with a minor league team in Stockton, Calif., Mr. Dalkowski struck out 262 batters in 170 innings — an astonishing rate of 14 strikeouts per 9 innings. But he also walked 262 batters.
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YEP 1051. I live in the DMV and we have gotten the Orioles broadcast when we had no Nationals.When Cal Ripken Sr. took over managing the team he told some stories about when he caught for the guy in the minor leagues.Crazy stuff
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