The annual election of the Shrine of the Eternals holds much anticipation for the results than those of the Baseball Hall of Fame because … just because.
And Steve Dalkowski, Roger Maris and Jim Eisenreich now don’t ever have to feel slighted by the later. They’re a member of the former. Which, to many fans, is a bigger honor.
In voting for the 2009 Class by members of the Baseball Reliquary during April and May, Dalkowski had the greatest response (34 percent of the ballots returned), with Maris (30 percent) and Eisenreich (27 percent) just ahead of Effa Manley, Casey Stengel and Don Zimmer (all with 26 percent).
Dalkowski, Maris and Eisenreich will be enshrined at the Pasadena City Library on Sunday, July 19 by the Southern California-based nonprofit dedicated to fostering an appreciate of American art and culture through the context of baseball history.
One of these you definitely know about. Another you should know about. The third … he’s a former Dodger, remember?
Why is there a specialness about these three, and the others who’ve gone before them?
He was Ron Shelton’s inspiration for Nuke LaLoose in the movie “Bull Durham” — a wild, hard-throwing minor leaguer who logged nine minor-league seasons (1957-’65), amassing 1,400 strikeouts in 995 innings — along with 1,354 walks. Otherwise unimposing (5-foot-10 and a buck 70), the left-hander was said to reach 105 to 110 mph (pre-radar) — Ted Williams once said Dalkowski was the hardest thrower he’d ever seen. “White Lightning” threw so fast that at least one opposing batter soiled his uniform in expectation of facing him (or so the legend goes).
In one game, Dalkowski (with Earl Weaver as his manager in Aberdeen, South Dakota), threw a no-hitter with 20 strikeouts — and 18 walks.
In a blog posting on SportsHollywood.com (linked here), former minor-leaguer Robert Fabbricatore admits that while he was “awarded a Bronze Star for my actions in Vietnam … I should have gotten a Silver Star for spending 20 minutes in a batting cage with Steve Dalkowski.”
Just before making the Baltimore Orioles’ roster, Dalkowski blew out his arm. It led to a bout with what was described as “uncontrollable alcoholism.” After his career was over, he headed out to these parts and was working for a time as a migrant farm worker in California’s Central Valley. The Association of Professional Ball Players helped him for a 20-year span until the 1990s when he went to a health-care center in his hometown of New Britian, Conn., where he reportedly lives these days with his sister, about to turn 70 on June 3.
Terry Cannon, the executive director of the Baseball Reliquary, said he notified Dalkowski of his enshrinement and will attempt to contact him later this week to see if he is healthy enough to make a trip to Pasadena for his induction.
Maris (linked here), of course, set the single-season home-run record with 61 in 161 games in ’61 (also the AL MVP with 132 runs scored), a mark since shattered by Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds and nearly approached by Alex Rodriguez. What do those four have in common? We’re not sure.
But they really have nothing more in common with Maris, who died in 1985 after a bout with cancer. He’s often mentioned as a player who deserves Baseball Hall of Fame induction — 275 career homers, 851 RBI (142 of them coming in ’61, the year after his first AL MVP season of 1960), but that may never happen. He played 12 seasons, the last two for the St. Louis Cardinals after the Yankees let him go following the 1966 season.
Why isn’t he in the “real” Hall. Statistically alone, the Baseball Reference compares his body of work to those like Danny Tartabull, Eric Davis, Jesse Barfield and Tony Armas. But none of them are a two-time MVP and single-season record of anything.
Eisenrich (linked here), a member of the Dodgers in his last season in the big-leagues in 1998 (75 games, 147 at bats, .197 average, coming over in the package with Florida for Mike Piazza), battled through Tourette Syndrome during his career. The 50-year-old had uncontrolable physical tics and jerks and erratic behavior — which resulted in the Minnesota Twins eventually waiving him for $1 before he was properly diagnosed. He was a very good left-handed hitter and outfielder for the Royals, Phillies and Marlins (playing in two World Series) and ended up playing 15 seasons with a .290 career mark.
Eisenreich began to produce for his new team, the Kansas City Royals, emerging as a gifted left-handed hitter and outfielder. In 1967, he was named the Royals most valuable He now heads the Missouri-based Jim Eisenreich Foundation for Children with Tourette Syndrome (linked here), which he founded with his wife in 1996.
These three join Shrine of the Eternals members Jim Abbott, Dick Allen, Emmett Ashford, Moe Berg, Yogi Berra, Ila Borders, Jim Bouton, Jim Brosnan, Bill Buckner, Roberto Clemente, Rod Dedeaux, Dock Ellis, Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, Josh Gibson, William “Dummy” Hoy, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill James, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, Pam Postema, Jackie Robinson, Lester Rodney, Fernando Valenzuela, Bill Veeck Jr. and Kenichi Zenimura. Get them all together for a game, and you’d have one heck of a movie script.
More info on the organization at www.baseballreliquary.org.