Let's start with a commentary yesterday by Keith Olbermann on ESPN: Video: All The Tommy John Surgeries Are A Good Thing. Olbermann's consideration of an increasingly common surgical procedure closes with a reference to the legendary pitcher Steve Dalkowski.
And who was Dalkowski?
Delving into the Dalkowski depths, by Steve Treder (The Hardball Times)
... He is a figure from the deepest heart of baseball legend and lore. In his every aspect, of electrifying performance and of gargantuan struggle, on and off the field, he appears far more plausible as an invention, as a character of baseball fiction inhabiting the same imaginary universe as Ring Lardner’s Jack Keefe, Bernard Malamud’s Roy Hobbs and George Plimpton’s Sidd Finch, than as historical reality.
Dalkowski's legend probably dates to Pat Jordan's classic piece from Sports Illustrated in 1970.
The Wildest Fastball Ever
... Stories of Dalkowski's speed and wildness passed from one minor league town to another. Inevitably, the stories outgrew the man, until it was no longer possible to distinguish fact from fiction. But, no matter how embellished, one fact always remained: Dalkowski struck out more batters and walked more batters per nine-inning game than any professional pitcher in baseball history.
In the 1980s, Jordan penned a follow-up essay in Inside Sports, picking up the Dalkowski story at its lowest ebb, as described here in SI, circa 2003:
Where Are They Now? Steve Dalkowski, by Pete McEntegart
... Soon he was in the California fields, picking cotton and sugar beets, beans and carrots. Dalkowski's drink of choice was cheap wine, which he would buy when the bus stopped on the way to the crop field. Often he would place a bottle in the next row as motivation.
Dalkowski doesn't remember much of the next 30 years. He suffers from alcohol-related dementia, but the gaps in his memory don't start until about 1964. "I keep trying and trying to remember," he says. "But I don't."
In the course of reading about Dalkowski, it occurred to me that there is an oblique point of convergence with my father's brief baseball career, in that they both played at Kingsport, Tennessee, eight years apart; my dad in 1949, and Dalko in 1957.
For this incredibly strange reason, I stumbled via Google across the byline of Vince Staten, former Louisville-area barbecue specialist and columnist for the now degraded Gannett paper. As of 2009, Staten also was in Kingsport.
Steve Dalkowski - The Real Nuke LaLoosh
Steve Dalkowski, the fastest pitcher in baseball history, and the wildest, spent the 1957 season with the Kingsport Orioles.