Saturday, June 20, 2015

'63 Topps-style custom gives Dalkowski own card

When viewing Steve Dalkowski's minor league pitching record, I don't really question why he never made the major leagues, but rather how he managed to hang on in professional ball at all.

From 1957-62 he never progressed higher than Class A on a 26-62 record and 6.15 ERA. Baltimore Orioles officials, however, were so enamored by his speed that they continued to hope, season after season, that he could learn some control -- both over his fast ball and hs thirst.

In 1962, despite a 3-12 record at Class B in 1961, Dalkowski was promoted to Class A Elmira in the Eastern League. There, he hooked up with manager Earl Weaver, who convinced him that by taking something off his fast ball, he'd be better able to control it.

Though his record with Elmira was only 7-10 in 1962, he dropped his ERA from 8.39 to 3.04. His rate of bases on balls per nine innings dropped from 17.1 to 6.4. His strikeout rate also declined, but much less dramatically, from 13.1 to 10.8 per nine innings.

When the Orioles took Dalkowski to spring training in 1963, Topps evidently believed he would make the big club, so they included his "floating head" portrait on card #496 "1963 Rookie Stars" in the high-number series.

Unfortunately, as spring training drew to a close, Dalkowski injured his arm, tossing a come-backer over to first base. He never reached the big leagues, though he pitched for three more seasons in the minors in the Orioles, Pirates and Angels organizations.

Topps might have just as easily given Dalkowski his own rookie card in 1963. Since they didn't, I've taken on the task.

There really aren't many good in-uniform photos of Dalkowski to work with; color photos are especially scarce. I decided to work with a black-and-white pose and colorize it for my card. I believe the picture shows Dalkowski in a minor league Orioles jersey.

In putting together my card back, I was fortunate to find a chart on the internet with his complete record. Even the usually comprehensive web site is incomplete for a couple of Dalkowski's seasons in the lower minors.

Dalkowski was certainly an inspiration in the mythical Sidd Finch character created as a 1985 April Fool's joke by George Plimpton in Sports Illustrated.

Here's a good summary of Dalkowski from the site:
Steve Dalkowski biography

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