In an interview with Dan Patrick this week, Kevin Costner said he’d be opening to reprising the role of Crash Davis in Bull Durham 2 if creator Ron Shelton was open to the idea and could draft the next chapter in the story of big-screen players that have become minor-league baseball icons.
But there’s one cardboard icon in the real world who’s partly responsible for the creation of the 1988 film in the first place.
He’s Steve Dalkowski.
Dalkowski is a legendary minor-leaguer whose powerful arm — and unruly control — inspired Shelton who was a minor-league player himself long, long ago to create Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh, who was brought to the screen by Tim Robbins.
You’d think his stats were the stuff of Hollywood.
As an 18-year-old in Class D- Kingsport in 1957 he struck out 121 batters in 62 innings. He also walked 129 while recording a 1-8 record in 15 games. That’s 17.6 Ks per nine innings and 18.7 walks per nine. (Thankfully he only went nine innings twice that year.) The next season, he went 4-10 with a 7.63 ERA, striking out 203 batters in 118 innings and walking 245.
His most-dominating season? That was 1960 when he racked up 262 strikeouts — and 262 walks — in 170 innings for Class C Stockton. (Nuke would be proud.)
The highest Dalkowski ever got was Triple-A in 1963 and 1964 and he pitched in some spring training games where he rattled a few legends with his pre-radar speed, which is so “legendary” it simply sounds too stupid to type. His career was over by 1965 with a final record of 46-80 with 1,324 strikeouts in 970 innings — and 1,274 walks — though that is incomplete since a couple of his seasons in MiLB aren’t fully documented.
He never made the majors but he does appear on a few baseball cards. Just one was made during his career — a 1963 Topps Rookie Stars card that he shares with Fred Newman, Jack Smith and Carl Bouldin. That’s No. 496 — a pricier “semi-high number” card. The cheapest one on eBay right now is $100. Among completed auctions, the card typically sells for $30 or more in decent condition with a high of $125 for a PSA 7 in recent weeks.
Dalkowski’s only other baseball cards can be found in the 2009 TRISTAR Obak set that celebrates the game’s oddities and legends that might not be household names. He has as many as 15 cards in that one — though that may be legend, too. He was slated to have autographs in that release but they may not have ever been issued. (Buzz needs one if they were!)
Ironically, Robbins appears on more baseball cards thanks to Topps’ inclusion of Bull Durham cards in MLB products this year. Meanwhile, a 77-year-old Dalkowski played a part in a documentary called Fastball that arrived earlier this year and told some of his story alongside legends you already know quite well.
The narrator for that film? Kevin Costner.
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