Covid-19 claims a living legend.
Orioles minor league pitcher Steve Dalkowski was a figure writ large. The inspiration for Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham, Dalkowski was a character whose stories passed among players, taking on a mythic life of their own. Ron Shelton, a minor leaguer himself, received the dugout legend from those around him and committed it to paper in later years through his character, LaLoosh.
Dalkowski was a phenom at New Britain High School in Connecticut. He signed with the Orioles, and there was a lot of promise in the youngster, with a fastball that Cal Ripkin, Sr. estimated at 110mph. He threw flames but he lacked the control to make him an ace. He made the majors, but his career was limited by his…irregular results. All told, in 956 innings, he struck out 1,324 batters. Wowza! But, he also walked 1,236, hit 37, and threw 145 wild pitches. His fastball was smoking but you never knew if it was going over the plate or straight for a hot dog vendor in the stands.
After his time in baseball, Dalkowski deteriorated, struggling with alcoholism and a lack of direction. He lived as a drifter, until his family placed him in December, 1992 in an assisted-living facility in Connecticut. There he found the care that would help him stay sober and healthy for so long.
The homes in our state have been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, and Dalkowski tested positive for the virus earlier this month. He appeared to improve briefly, before he died in a New Britain hospital due to complications from the coronavirus and his pre-existing health conditions. Dalkowski was 80.
The Hartfort Courant has a fine tribute you can read here.
Covid-19 is a sonuvabitch. RIP Dalkowski.