View Full Version : White Lightning (for baseball fans)

11th Apr 2005, 15:34
Every once in a while I come across one of these amazing sport stories that can only happen in the US. First there was Seabiscuit which amazing story I watched on National Geographic before I realised it became a movie with Oscar Nomination.

I wonder when the story of Steve "White Lightning" Dalkowski will become a Hollywood production, it has all the ingredients of an amazing story. It has to be said that Dalkowski’s story hasn’t a happy end like Seabiscuit.

Dalkowski, 5’11”, 170 lbs, wearing thick glasses (IQ 60), wasn’t exactly a baseball god.Still, people who saw him pitching believed he was a god. It is said Dalkowski had the fastest, deadliest fastball in professional baseball history... yet he never played in the majors. Most experts believe that he must have thrown at least 110 mph in his prime.

Why did he never played in the majors? Dalkowski's life has been as wild and unpredictable as his pitching. In the 50’and early 60’s he had a lifetime won-loss record of 46-80 and an ERA of 5.59 in nine minor league seasons, striking out 1396... and walking 1354... in 995 innings. (Almost one and a half strikeouts and one and a half walks every inning.)
He wasn't wild hurling pitches inside and outside. He'd get the ball over the plate, but it'd be twenty feet over it. It would rise spectacularly, and he couldn't control it. Teammate Ron Hansen said: "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."
A batter in Knoxville had to return to the clubhouse and change his pants after a fastball sailed past his head. "I threw so hard I scared the whole town that night," recalled Dalkowski.
Former Yankees manager Bob Lemon said the best Dalkowski exploit he saw was in Miami's Bobby Maduro Stadium when Steve hit a guy in the back -- and the guy was standing in line to buy a hot dog! "The guy came up to me after and asked if I'd autograph the ball," Dalkowski said.

But was there a method to the madness? Herm Starrette recalled: "He was warming up in Reno [Nevada] and told me, 'The first [warm-up] pitch I'm throwing over the press box.' He threw it clean out of the stadium. Over the press box and everything. The sportswriters were ducking. Billy DeMars was managing, and he turned to me and said, 'Did he do that on purpose?' I said, 'I don't think so; that’s just Steve.'"

After finally making the Orioles major league team Dalkowski was called in to pitch in relief against the Yankees in the sixth inning. He fanned Roger Maris and Elston Howard. Then Hector Lopez singled. Facing Phil Linz, Dalkowski felt something pop in his elbow. He had severely strained a tendon in his left elbow. He never returned to major league again.

Like all Dalkowski’s stories it turned out bad. Already being a heavy drinker during his baseball career, his drinking escalated. The million dollar arm went from tossing baseballs over a backstop to tossing oranges into a crate working as a farm laborer. And with that came depression -- and more drinking.

Amazing life, amazing story…..

11th Apr 2005, 18:55
And I thought I'd be reading some informative info about illicit booze in Kuwait . . . . . ("White Lightning")