On September 22, 2020, Influence Publishers is releasing my biography, coauthored with Alex Thomas and Brian Vikander, of baseball pitcher Steve Dalkowski. The book is available at Amazon. There’s also a book website: DalkoBook.com. The piece below by my coauthors and me is a more video-friendly version of an “extra” on the DalkoBook.com website titled “Unraveling Steve Dalkowski’s 110 MPH Fastball.”
Steve Dalkowski (1939 — 2020), active as a professional baseball player in the late 1950s and early 1960s, is widely regarded as the fastest pitcher ever. Because of control problems, walking as many as he struck out, Dalkowski never quite made it to the majors, though he got close. Instead, Dalkowski spent his entire professional career confined to the minor leagues. Yet players who did make it to the majors batted against him and saw him pitch. Baseball players, coaches, and managers as diverse as Ted Williams, Earl Weaver, “Sudden” Sam McDowell, Harry Brecheen, Billy De Mars, and Cal Ripken Sr. all witnessed Dalko pitch, and all of them left convinced that none was faster, not even close.
The current official record for the fastest pitch, through PITCHf/x, belongs to Aroldis Chapman, who in 2010 was clocked at 105.1 mph. Previously, the official record belonged to Joel Zumaya, which stood at 104.8 mph and was reached in 2006. The fastest unofficial pitch, in the sense that it was unconfirmed by present technology, but still can be reliably attributed, belongs to Nolan Ryan. In 1974 Ryan was clocked with radar technology available at the time, placing one of his fastballs at over 101 mph at 10 feet from the plate. Extrapolating backward to the point of release, which is what current PITCHf/x technology does, it’s estimated that Ryan’s pitch was above 108 mph. Ryan’s 1974 pitch is thus the fastest unofficial, albeit reliably measured and recorded, pitch ever.
Aroldis Chapman’s fastest pitch (see 25 second mark):
Nolan Ryan’s fastest pitch (from MLB documentary FASTBALL):
So the challenge, in establishing that Dalkowski was the fastest pitcher ever, is to make a case that his pitching velocity reached at least 110 mph. To be sure, a mythology has emerged surrounding Dalkowski, suggesting that he attained speeds of 120 mph or even better. That may be, but for our present purposes, we want simply to make the case that he could have done as good or better than 110 mph. [Read more…] about The Making of the Fastest Baseball Pitcher Ever: An Incremental and Integrative Hypothesis