This Day in Baseball History: March 23rd, 1963

Really? I expected some little buff dude, not a guy with glasses. Now what excuse do I have?

On March 23, 1963:

Steve Dalkowski blows out his elbow on his first pitch ever in a Spring Training exhibition game.

When Gene Mauch was asked who throw the hardest fastball, one name that he came up with was Steve Dalkowski. The 5′ 10″ lefty was believed to commonly hit 100 mph, and Earl Weaver swore he threw harder than Nolan Ryan. In Dalkowski’s minor league career, he struck out 12.63 batters per nine innings, but he never made to the major leagues after nine seasons in the minors. Why? He couldn’t control it. While he struck out all of those batters, he also walked 12.25 batters per nine innings. Staggering. He threw so hard and so wild that Ted Williams wouldn’t get in the box against the southpaw.

Still, the Orioles continued to try to control the youngster. Earl Weaver seemed to figure out something, and Dalkowski struck out 104 in 52 innings while only walking 11. It seemed Dalkowski was meant for great things after all. He was invited to Spring Training, and it was thought he could at least be a great reliever. The Orioles gave him a jersey and sent him out to the mound. On his first pitch, he heard something pop — his elbow. When he came back, his fastball only topped out at 90 mph, and he would be out of baseball by 1966.

There’s some confusion about Dalkowski. One rumor is that his IQ was so low that he couldn’t understand what the pitching coaches were telling him. Weaver, realizing this after making him take an IQ test, made things simple — just throw it over the plate. He didn’t want the kid to worry about hitting spots, knowing a fastball at 100 mph was hard enough to hit. Weaver added a slider to Dalkowski’s repertoire, and supposedly, Dalkowski’s elbow snapped on that pitch. Other people say that Dalkowski hurt his arm while fielding a bunt. Regardless, it ended up as a severe muscle strain, and he wouldn’t get into a big-league game.

As with other “legendary” players, Dalkowski had his “legends”. Here are some of them. A couple quick hits:

– One of his fastballs tore an opposing batter’s ear off.
– He struck out 24 in one game while also walking 18.
– In one game, people refused to sit behind the plate because three fastballs broke through the backstop.
– He threw a no-hitter and gave up no runs while striking out and walking 18 in a game.

Now whether or not these are true is up for debate. But this is true — I would have hated to have been the catcher for him. If his fastball could break through wood, what would it do to me?


One Response to “This Day in Baseball History: March 23rd, 1963”

  1. Ron Rollins Says:

    Can we name the ‘A-Rod syndrome’.

    You know, a guy with all the talent in the world, and no brains to go with it.

    And then, everytime some makes a mental mistake on the field, the announcer cans say, “Aw, he A-Rod’ed it”.

    I’m loving this idea.

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