Staff photo by Keith Birmingham
Another important sidebar to today’s column (linked here) about Steve Dalkowski, the mythological figure in baseball history who’s in town this weekend to be honored by the Baseball Reliquary for their Shrine of the Eternals in Pasadena on Sunday:
If there’s someone who deserves more than a little credit in helping Dalkowski reach a point to where his current health condition is far better than it was years ago, it’s Tom Chiappetta and his pursuit of trying to tell the Dalkowski story.
The executive director of the Fairfield (Conn.) County Sports Commission had left his job as a media relations director at Fox Sports Net in 2005 when he decided he wanted to try to finish a documentary he had started a decade earlier on Dalkowski’s life.
The project goes back to when Chiappetta was working at an Equitable Old Timers game in Baltimore, where he was, as he said, “an unofficial Orioles historian, as well as a memorabilia collector” who knew of Dalkowski’s story — and the fact they are both Connecticut natives.
He brought up the documentary idea to a former Orioles catcher, Frank Zupo, who happened to be one of Dalkowski’s friends and teammates from his days in the minor leagues.
Chiappetta contacted a film production partner about the idea, and, with Zupo, they flew to Oilville, California, just north of Bakersfield, to meet with Dalkowski and his wife, Virginia, in August of 1991.
“We interviewed him, talked with both of them and before we left, Frank ultimately asked them if Steve wanted help,” said Chiappetta, noting that Dalkowski was in trouble with alcohol abuse. “He said he did.”
Chiappetta and Zupo contacted the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT) to get him initial help, which started with having Dalkowski hospitalized in Los Angeles in Oct., 1991, to start with getting him nourished properly, diagnose his ailments, and begin detoxification — which lasted three months.
Dalkowski was then sent to a halfway house in Hawthorne called the Rickman Center — but in late ’92, he walked out and disappeared for about four months. A woman in Glendale found him in a laundromat, got enough infomation from him to contact his wife, and the Rickman Center, and he was readmitted.
Eventually, he moved to Virginia’s hometown of Oklahoma City in Jan., ’93. When Virginia suddenly passed away, Dalkowski’s sister, Patti, went out and brought him back to his home in New Britain, Conn., in 1994, entering him into an extensive care facility where he’s been the last 15 years.
And that’s what laid the groundwork to Dalkowski’s current rehab and his unlikely arrival back in L.A. this weekend — a first visit to Southern California since his days at the halfway house, and throwing out the first pitch at Friday’s Dodgers-Astros game at Dodger Stadium.
Staff photos by Keith Birmingham
== A link to a story on Dalkowski by columnist George Vescey in today’s New York Times (linked here).