Stories about past baseball players continue to come to “Neighbors,” as the game’s fans relish memories before COVID-19 when watching their teams play was a big part of summer.
Jim Brosseau, Grand Forks, sends “Neighbors” information about a popular Northern League pitcher in the late 1950s. Some of you may remember him.
He was Steve Dalkowski, who played for the Aberdeen, S.D., Pheasants, and pitched against the Fargo-Moorhead Twins as well as other Northern League teams.
The Forum’s sports pages carried a story about Steve last year. Now Jim gives more details about him, both in baseball and in his personal life.
In 1959, he threw a no-hitter against the Grand Forks Chiefs, striking out 21 in the process.
“Steve was kind of a baseball legend because of his fastball,” Jim writes. “It was estimated at 115 mph.
“But he never made the major leagues because he was so wild. He walked almost as many as he struck out. He often threw 200 pitches per game.”
Well, COVID-19 took its toll on Steve. He died of it last year. He was 80.
Jim sends along news stories about Steve. One of them quotes a teammate of Steve, who said he batted against some of the MLB’s top pitchers like Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver, but Steve threw harder than anybody he ever saw.
But Steve had a big-time personal problem; he suffered from alcoholism.
Up and down
Steve was born in New Britain, Conn. He was a star athlete in high school. He threw back-to-back no-hitters and once struck out 24 batters in a single game.
The Baltimore Orioles signed him in 1957 and sent him to its farm club in Kingsport, Tenn., where his professional baseball career didn’t start well; he won one game and lost eight, and he struggled with his wildness — one time his pitch tore off part of a batter’s ear — and his drinking.
He went on to play for other teams, including the Aberdeen Pheasants. But then his arm went out, and his baseball career was over.
He became a migrant farmworker in California, living on the street and failing at numerous attempts to come back in baseball. But he became the inspiration for Nuke LaLoosh, the fictional baseball pitcher in the 1988 movie “Bull Durham.”
On Christmas Eve in 1992, a family found him disoriented in a Los Angeles laundromat, took him in and reunited him with his sister. She placed him in an assisted living facility in Connecticut, just a few blocks from the high school baseball field where he first found glory.
His obituary says he spent 26 years there, “gazing out the window and contemplating his unlikely path.”
“‘What do I think about?’ he said to a journalist in 1996. ‘Strikes.’”
But Steve Dalkowski struck out, largely because of alcohol.
If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email email@example.com.