An Editorial From WFAA Sports Blogger Patrick Despain
Most, if not all, of you know our own Pete Delkus our chief meteorologist at WFAA.
Pete's smooth, dapper, and his feel for delivering the weather is unmatched in this market. He's engaging on Twitter, he's friendly, and he knows his sports as well as the weather.
What you may not know, is of his career before turning to meteorology.
Two years ago, while doing some baseball research, I ran across an article by Bob Wilber of The Perfect Game Foundation about a very successful, submarine-style pitcher named Pete Delkus. I don't remember exactly what I was trying to find, but the link on Google shocked me when I saw it. Surely this can't be THAT Pete Delkus?
I clicked the link, scrolled down hoping for a picture to identify this man and up popped a picture of our favorite weatherman wearing an Orlando Twins uniform.
Photo courtesy of The Perfect Game Foundation
Shocked, intrigued, and excited were the words that described my emotions at that point. I thought I had run into the Holy Grail of great articles and that's exactly what happened. I read it. Then I read it again, because the first time, my jaw dropped reading that the guy who delivers the weather to us on a daily basis was a heck of a pitcher.
The first thing I did was to send a tweet to Jamey Newberg with the above picture and the link of that article along the lines of: 'Did you have any idea?' I tagged Pete in the tweet and Mr. Delkus immediately responded with something along the lines of 'A lot of good memories.' Jamey came back with 'Yes, submarine pitcher I believe.'
The next 30 minutes were filled with Pete Delkus, Jamey Newberg, and me tweeting about Pete's career. I asked him what had happened, what the experience was like, did he miss it, and if he had any regrets. I don't remember any of the responses, because I was still so shocked that Pete Delkus was at one time, a very successful pitcher and very few people knew about it. I went back to the article and read it again, and got lost in the words of Bob Wilber describing the ups and downs of Pete's career. Bob and Pete are friends and played together on a semi-pro team in the mid-80s and even helped get Pete a look from Major League scouts.
'Being a submarine pitcher, Pete focused on his heavily sinking fastball, but was also able to expand the zone with a breaking ball that seemed to stop in mid-air and then break down and away from a right-handed hitter. For a guy coming at you from so low, he had surprisingly good velocity. The thing I remember the most, from the times I would hit off him in the cage, was that his pitches were all so 'heavy.' You never seemed to get the good part of the bat on the ball, and it always felt like the ball was made of lead. It would knock the bat back in your hands. The current big leaguer who looks like Pete is Pat Neshek with the Cardinals, although Neshek drops down like he's going submarine but then ends up throwing pretty much straight sidearm. Neshek's actual delivery and approach, though, is very much how Pete used to look. When I hit off Pete, it felt like he was throwing much harder than he was, because you didn't pick the ball up until very late.' - Bob Wilber
Pete was an undrafted free agent signed by the Minnesota Twins in 1987 out of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
'...when scouts are looking at pitchers, they tend to 'fall in love with the gun' too much -- meaning they live and die by their radar guns. For a submarine guy, Pete threw pretty hard, but scouts tend to knock you back if you're not up over 90. He was mid-80s most of the time. That's probably what kept him from being drafted.' - Bob Wilber
That same year, at the age of 21, he was assigned to Elizabethton, Tennessee, in the Appalachian League, which was a rookie league at the time. Pete got into 21 games, resulting in 37.2 innings of relief. He surrendered 29 hits in those innings, struck out 44 batters and allowed a total of five earned runs for a 1.19 ERA. The earned run total is beyond impressive, but a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 10.5 is equally astounding.
'After my dad and I got him signed, he continued to work as hard as anyone I've ever seen. He was simply a maniac when it came to strength and conditioning, and back then they didn't have strength coaches in the minors, so he did it all on his own. He knew, every day, that he'd outwork every other person on whatever team he was on.' - Bob Wilber
The next year, in 1988, Pete was assigned to Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Class-A affiliate of the Twins in the Midwest League at the time, playing for first-year manager Ron Gardenhire (now the Twins long-time manager).
This is where the story gets crazy.
Pete Delkus, at the age of 22, put up video-game numbers in Class A. So much so, that as I'm typing this, I'm still shaking my head.
That year, Pete pitched in 61 games. In those games, he completed 68 innings, struck out 58, only gave up 43 hits, and recorded 33 saves. In that same season, Delkus gave up 13 total runs, two of which were earned. Yes, you read that correctly, Pete Delkus gave up two earned runs in 68 innings for a 0.26 ERA.
I'll give you a second to collect your thoughts.
Pete was selected as the Twins Minor League Player of the Year and was awarded the Rolaids Minor League Relief Man. The pitching career of Pete Delkus was about to take off.
'After his second year, at Kenosha in Class A ball, the Twins GM (Terry Ryan) told my father 'Pete Delkus is going to be a very rich young man soon...'' - Bob Wilber
In 1989, Pete was again promoted, this time to Double-A Orlando of the Southern League, along with manager Ron Gardenhire. There were big expectations attached to the young right hander.
At the age of 23, Pete Delkus carved up the Southern League to the tune of a 1.87 ERA in 139.2 innings with 10 saves in 76 games. Pete was on his way to being a Major League pitcher, and a very successful one at that. Three years into a career, that was outstanding and nothing was standing in his way.
In the offseason, Pete had obtained an internship at WFTV in Orlando, and thus began the start of Pete Delkus' second career. Ever the tireless worker, Pete worked mornings and off days on homestands. They liked him at the station, and the seed was planted.
His baseball career wasn't over at this point and Pete was again promoted to the Triple-A Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League. He was invited to the big league camp in spring training and placed on the 40-man roster for Minnesota.
Photo courtesy of The Perfect Game Foundation
In Portland in 1990, Pete pitched in 67 games with a 4.18 ERA. According to Bob Wilber, Pete has his same stuff for the final four months of the season, but early struggles inflated his ERA. After the season, the Twins removed him from the 40-man roster and his elbow began to hurt. The next year, he pitched in both Portland and Orlando with an elbow that needed surgery from bone chips floating around, and his baseball career was over.
'[If not for the injury] He would have pitched in the big leagues for a long time. I have no doubt about that.' - Bob Wilber
Pete worked in Orlando at WFTV, then in Cincinnati at WCPO, and now in Dallas as WFAA's chief meteorologist. One thing I wish I could see is Pete Delkus pitch in his prime, but I'll settle for his delivery of the weather every night.
Hard work, perseverance and following your dreams is something that is said in many motivational seminars and a lot of people don't follow through on that... Pete Delkus did and we are all better for it.
'Truly one of the best guys, and best people, I've ever had the pleasure to know.' - Bob Wilber
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My sincere thanks to Bob Wilber of The Perfect Game Foundation and the people at that organization for their insight and help putting this together. Here are Bob's words on TPGF:
'TPGF exists for the sole purpose of 'being that person you know' and we work closely with applicants to get them internships (now in a variety of sports, after initially focusing on baseball). Once we help them get a foot in the door, the rest is up to them as to whether they succeed or fail. Our goal is to help as many young people of diverse backgrounds as possible. My mother was a real groundbreaker in terms of gender diversity, and she broke down perceived barriers her whole life, so this project is very near and dear to Del Jr. and me.