Dal Canton, 66, went from high school teacher to big league pitcher

Updated: October 9, 2008, 5:19 PM ET
Associated Press

CARNEGIE, Pa. -- Bruce Dal Canton, a former high school teacher who turned a good showing at a tryout camp into a lengthy career as a major league pitcher and coach, has died. He was 66.

Dal Canton died Tuesday of esophageal cancer. He worked until mid-May as the pitching coach at Class A Myrtle Beach, Atlanta's affiliate in the Carolina League.

Dal Canton went 51-49 with a 3.67 ERA from 1967 to 1977 with Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Atlanta and the Chicago White Sox.

The right-hander was used as both a starter and reliever, and found his best success with a knuckleball -- the darting pitch that also made him the 1974 American League leader in wild pitches with 16.

Before the Braves faced Pirates knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in the 1992 National League championship series, they brought in the 50-year-old Dal Canton to throw batting practice.

Dal Canton spent more than 25 years in the Atlanta system as a pitching coach, and had been at Myrtle Beach since 1999.

In June 1990, when Bobby Cox took over as manager of the Braves, Leo Mazzone replaced Dal Canton as their pitching coach.

"We used to room together in spring training in West Palm Beach. I'd bring in some Iron City beer and we had good times," Mazzone said Thursday.

"He really liked working with young pitchers and did a real good job," Mazzone said. "He could've moved up from Myrtle Beach, but he liked it down there. He told me he'd rather retire than leave."

Dal Canton was born and grew up near Pittsburgh and was a star at California University (Pa.). He did not attract a lot of attention from big league scouts, however, and went to work as a high school teacher and coach.

In the mid-1960s, Dal Canton went to a Pirates' tryout camp, hoping for one last chance at a baseball career. The Pirates signed him and he made his major league debut with them in 1967.

Dal Canton went 8-2 with Pittsburgh in 1969 and then 9-4 with the 1970 NL East champions. After that season, the Pirates traded him with Freddie Patek to Kansas City. He was 8-10 for the Royals in 1974 and pitched his only two career shutouts.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press