Saturday, July 17, 2021

A white whale speared, and a milestone reached

 Yesterday I went to Nick's, a card shop I've been going to for just about forever. It had been a long time since I'd gone, so I went to check things out and hopefully get some good cards. 

I only had about 15 minutes, because my Dad had a meeting. I quickly shuffled through cards, planning to spend around $10. I made a stack of some decent  cards, but there wasn't anything particularly exciting. I was looking through 1963 Topps cards, and not really finding anything, when I saw it. My dream card. 

I mean, I have a lot of different dream cards, but this was one of the big ones. A card of one of my favorites of all-time, who only has one card from his playing career. 

After staring at it for a moment, (remember, time was short), I ran out to my dad because I didn't have enough cash. He was outside the store with our dog, so I took my turn with the dog as my dad paid for the card. Finally it was mine. Okay, fine, I'll show the card now:


I've wanted a Dalkowski rookie card for as long as I've known about it, but as it's a semi-high number it's always been out of my price range. In decent condition, it starts at $40. And as I used to only look on COMC, and there it used to start close to $100, it seemed to be unattainable for now. A dream card.

I got it for $25, which is the most I've ever spent on a single card, but reasonable. Actually, it was $30, but the guy knocked $5 off when he heard that I was a huge Dalkowski fan, and had been wanting his card for years. Thanks! It's in very nice condition, too. As you can see, it's off-center, but I don't really mind that.

I think if I got this card in 1963, I would've thought that Steve Dalkowksi was made up, an April-Fool's joke. I mean, 1099 K's and 1136 walks in 697 innings? What the?

What you may be wondering, though, is who is Steve Dalkowski, and why did you want his card so much? If you've never heard of Dalkowksi, I can't really blame you, as he never pitched in the majors. But he may have been the fastest pitcher of all time. 

Dalkowski's control problems kept him from success, though. One time he hit a radio announcer broadcasting the game -- up in the radio booth. Another time a Dalko-thrown ball went above the catcher and hit the umpire in the face, sending him back 18 feet and breaking his mask in three places. He was in the hospital for three days. In 1960 Dalkowksi hit a guy in the back, which wouldn't be noteworthy except that he was in line for a hot dog. He survived, and Dalkowksi signed the ball for him.

Dalkowksi started out in pro baseball with Kingsport in the Appalachian League in 1957, and quickly showed that he was something different. That year he allowed just 22 hits in 62 innings and struck out 121, but had a 1-8 record and 8.13 ERA because of 129 walks too. The next year was more of the same, but even more so. Splitting his time between Knoxville, Wilson, and Aberdeen, he walked 245 batters and struck out 232 in 118 innings, with an ERA of 7.78. 1959 brought more cartoonish stats, with 190 walks and 142 strikeouts in 84 innings. In 1960, with Stockton in the California League, he had a career-best 5.14 ERA, and a beautifully symmetrical 262 strikeouts and 262 walks. But in 1961 he appeared to hit low, with a 8.39 ERA and 3-12 record. 

1962, though, was the turning point in his career. That year he was pitching for Elmira, which just happened to be managed by a young Earl Weaver. Weaver had a custom of giving I.Q tests to his players, and Dalkowski's turned out to be 60. After seeing this, he realized that the reason Dalkowksi was so wild was that pitching coaches were trying to get him to change speeds, throw a curveball, pickoff runners, and he just couldn't do all that. Weaver told him to just throw, and it worked. After that happened, according to Gary Cieradkowski, he struck out 104 batters against 11 walks in over 50 innings, allowing but one earned run. A star had been born.

In spring training with the Orioles in 1963, he pitched well, and was informed that he had made the major league team at the end of spring training. His future seemed assured, and his picture was taken for a Topps baseball card. But in the last exhibition game of spring, he blew out his shoulder fielding a bunt. He would never be the same again.

He had one last hurrah with Stockton in 1964, with a 7-4 record, 2.83 ERA, and 141 strikeouts in 108 innings. That was the last time he pitched well anywhere, though, and he was out of baseball by 1966, at 27. 

He virtually disappeared for the next 27 years, working as a fruit picker in California when he wasn't drunk. He was a friendly guy, and his teammates loved him, but he'd always been a drinker. Think Rube Waddell, except not as eccentric. 

In 1993, his sister put him into an assisted living home in New Britain, Connecticut, his home town, where he spent the next 26 years until his death on April 19, 2020. Rest in peace, Steve Dalkowski. He had a tragic career and life, and I hope the afterlife makes up for it for him. 

So how hard did he throw, anyway? Real data is scarce, but most people who saw him pitch give estimates of 110+ MPH. In spring training, Ted Williams stepped into the batting cage against him before a game.  After one pitch, he stepped out. Earl Weaver considered him the hardest thrower of all time, over Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, them all. It is said that the speed at which he threw caused his pitches to have a movement all their own. According to Gary Cieradowski, " Physics made the thing dip half-way to the plate, then accelerate and rise one to two feet as it blazed across it. Someone likened it to a fighter jet taking off." 

Bob Lemke's version of his 1963 Topps card.

That sounds exaggerated, but I've read similar things almost everywhere, and the thing is we just don't know what would happen if a ball was thrown that hard. 

But I'm sure you want real data before crowning him as the fastest pitcher in history. He was timed once, in 1958, at the Aberden Proving Grounds. He was timed at 93.5 MPH, which doesn't sound like a lot. However, back then the velocity of a pitch was timed at home plate, rather than 10 feet from the rubber like now. If you adjust for that, that brings it up to about 100 MPH. Not bad, but not historic. But wait, there's more. Dalkowski had pitched the day before, plus it was on flat ground, plus it took 40 minutes before he even got a reading. Taking that all into consideration, I think 110 MPH is fairly conservative.

Thank you, Gary Cieradowksi, who first introduced me to Dalkowksi in his book "The League of Outsider Baseball," which I also used as a source for this post. You might know him as the creator of The Infinite Baseball Card Set. His blog is at .


Today I hit a milestone, with 100 posts! It's taken me way too long to get here, more than two and a half years, but better late than never I guess. I'm really happy to have such great readers. As Yogi Berra said, "Thank you for making this night necessary." Comments are kind of the reward for blogging, and I wouldn't be able to do this in isolation. 

I also reached 20,000 pageviews, which is cool too. A special thanks must be given to my readers in Sweden, who have provided over a thousand pageviews in the last month. (eyeroll) Somehow I don't believe I'm a blogging celebrity in Sweden, but whatever. 

So anyway, there you have it. My white whale speared. My next white whale will probably be the T206 Jack Dunn, because I'm a big minor-league Baltimore Orioles fan, and Dunn was the mastermind behind their 1920s dynasty.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Set accumulating

I made a third order on Kronozio a while back, and it seems like I've exhausted the stores of the seller I've been using. The only vintage cards added by 'my seller' recently have been overpriced. It was good while it lasted. Anyhow, I got some very good cards in this last order, so here they are.

I made some progress on 1963 Topps, which is one of my favorites. Currently, I have 36 of the 576, and my dad has another 26, so altogether I have 11% of the set. 

Hoyt! At $2.90, this was a little on the expensive side, but that's fine for a vintage HOF knuckler. By the time this card came out, Hoyt was pitching for the White Sox. Only once in his six years with the Sox did he have an ERA higher than 2.00. 

As many of y'all know, Joe Pepitone is currently suing the Hall of Fame over the ownership of Mickey Mantle's 500th homer bat, Pepitone claiming it was his bat and he had loaned it to Mantle. It'll be interesting to see how that's all resolved. Pepitone's 1963 Topps card is his first solo card. His rookie card costs $60, as he is one of four floating heads on a high number in 1962.

The dirt cheap high numbers return, with Bell being the only of this quartet who cost more than 80¢, at a whopping $2. 

Frank Funk?
The second-most expensive card in my order, at $3.40. For some reason, you can't get this card for under $10 on either COMC or Sportlots. And $3.40 feels like overpaying a little.
I'm thinking of using the Gibbs/Metcalf rookie for TTM, as both are still living. It would make for a pretty cool piece autographed by both. 

Though Buford isn't widely remembered, he was a highly capable leadoff man for one of the greatest dynasties of all time, the Baltimore Orioles at the start of the 1970s. He scored exactly 99 runs a year each year from 1969 to 1971, but in 1972 he hit just .206, and went to Japan after the season. He played for the Taiheiyo Club Lions and Nankai Hawks from 1973 to 1976, earning Best Nine honors in his first two years. His best year was 1975, in which he put up a slash line of .330/.430/.487. 

It would be nice to get his rookie card autographed, too.

I like how in Dick Bosman's signature, the 'i' in Dick is dotted with a star. 

Now I can say I have one 1967 high number, as the Nye/Upham rookie card is #608, next to last in the set. $3.90 well spent, as you can't get it under $10 on COMC. It's in very nice condition.
I was recently rating my favorite sets on TCDB, and 1967 Topps is one of my favorites, at 9 out of 10. I'd say it's my 8th favorite set of all-time.

Etchebarren has my favorite picture of the cards I got, with the unibrow and Yoohoo's sign in the background. 

Ron Campbell's sunset card is another card that's overpriced on COMC, at $19.92. Sportlots doesn't have a copy at all. 
Despite what Topps would have you believe, Phil Ortega had an 0-2 record for L.A in 1962, not an 0-28 record.

And I'll close with two Yankees who had beautiful cards, even if their careers were not quite so beautiful. 
Ruben Amaro hit .234 with 8 home runs in his career. His son Ruben Amaro didn't do much better, at .235/16. Fred Talbot's career record was 38-56, with a 4.12 ERA. Not exactly the glory days of the Yankees.

Though I may have used up the inventory of my favorite seller, there are a couple of other sellers who have cards I'm interested in, so I might make another order sometime. 

It's been a while since I've shared any songs, so I think I'll feature some tonight.

Ruby Falls by Guster is a great song, and I think this Line Rider track takes it to an even higher level. Line Rider is a game where you build a track for a rider to go over. Rabid Squirrel is one of the greats of Line Rider. 

While I'm on the subject of Line Rider, I'll show maybe the greatest Line Rider track of all-time. Hope you enjoy these. 

Mississippi John Hurt is one of my favorite bluesmen. 

This is my 99th post, so my next post will be my 100th. I'm planning on posting a special card, so stay tuned.

Aaron Judge is batting for his second time as I write this. I hope he gets a hit. I was glad to see him score the first run of the game.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

A Net54 pick-up

 I joined the forum Net54 earlier this year, because I thought it would be cool to learn more about pre-war cards, and get to see all the other members' great collections. And dream of when I'll have a collection close to some of theirs. That's worked pretty well, but I've also found you can get some good deals for buying too. One member holds weekly auctions of lots of 1950s and 1960s cards, and I made a couple of purchases from him.

One was an 8 card lot of 1955 Bowman, including three high numbers which I got for $19. Before buying this, I had just three 1955 Bowman cards, so it was definitely time to get some more.

These are two cards I really bought the lot for. Jim Brosnan was one of the few real intellectuals in the history of baseball, writing The Long Season and Pennant Race, two acclaimed baseball books. He was duly nicknamed "The Professor." This card of him was my first of his, so it's not bad to start with his rookie card.

Tommy Byrne's card, like Brosnan's, is a high number. I already wrote about Byrne earlier this year, for my Christmas 1956 Topps post, so I won't repeat myself, but his control was historically bad. According to COMC, Mickey Mantle is in the background. I'll take their word for it.

Who needs a card of an umpire? Especially expensive, high number umpire cards. Nothing against umpires, they're just not exactly thrilling. I might sell the Barlick so I can get cards of some real players. Update 7/7/21: I just sold the Barlick on Ebay for $11. So that's good I guess.

1955  Bowman is a nice set. The backs, especially the ones with the dull writeups like "My Favorite Memories in Baseball," are pretty bad, but the fronts are fun in a nostalgic, heavy-handed way.

It looks wrong to see Preacher Roe as an Oriole. Especially as he never even pitched for them.

I'm glad that I have a new option for buying cards in Net54, and I'm also glad I have more than three 1955 Bowman cards now.