Monday, June 25, 2007
Former Relief Ace Rod Beck (1968-2007)
Former relief ace, Rod Beck, who pitched for the Giants, Cubs, Red Sox and Padres, was found dead yesterday at the age of 38. ESPN.com excerpt:
Rod Beck was a menacing sight on the mound, with a bushy mustache and a searing stare that intimidated batters throughout his 13-year career as one of baseball's best closers.
Yet his friends in the game knew Beck as a hardworking teammate and a jovial character whose early death saddened players all around the major leagues.
Beck, an All-Star relief pitcher who earned 286 career saves, was found dead in his home Saturday. He was 38.
Nicknamed "Shooter" and well-known for his fondness for country music, cowboy boots and cigarettes, Beck pitched for the San Francisco Giants (1991-97), the Chicago Cubs (1998-99) and the Boston Red Sox (1999-2001) before finishing his career with the Padres (2003-04).
While working his way back to the majors in 2003, Beck pitched for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs and famously lived in his Winnebago parked just beyond the outfield fence. Delighted fans would drop by for autographs and stay for a beer.
Beck set the Giants' single-season record with 48 saves in 1993. He was on the mound when San Francisco clinched the NL West title in 1997, and was the Giants' career saves leader with 199 until Robb Nen passed him in 2002.
"I broadcast a lot of games when he got the final out," Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Half of those times, he did it on guts."
Beck was a favorite at Candlestick Park through most of the 1990s, but left to sign with the Cubs as a free agent in 1998. "Everyone in the Giants organization is deeply saddened by the loss of a dear friend," Giants owner Peter Magowan said. "Rod Beck was a true Giant in every sense of the word, from his dedication on the field to his selflessness away from the park."
Beck saved 51 games in his first season in Chicago, helping the Cubs win the NL wild card. He had a career record of 38-45 in 704 games with a 3.30 ERA.
At a Giants-Cubs game at Wrigley Field last Sept. 2, Beck threw out the ceremonial first pitch and sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch.
Beck was involved in charity work with the Pediatric AIDS Foundation and other worthy causes during his time in San Francisco.
Kuiper is right about his observation that a lot of the time Beck got the final outs of games on guts. His performance in the 1998 tie-breaker between the Cubs and Giants to determine the NL Wild Card that season was a prime example. He had been pitching almost every day down the stretch (appearing in a career high 81 games), and had almost nothing left when he faced the Giants. He had no fastball, and his sliders were about 75 MPH, but he got the job done. Unfortunately for Beck, the after effects of that heavy workload carried over into the beginning of 1999 and he was hit hard, and the Cubs traded him to the Red Sox.
By the time the Red Sox got him, Beck was basically a setup man (9 wins against 5 losses and 9 saves with a 3.46 ERA in 114 games and 135 1/3 innings), but he still had that aura about him that seemed to say to hitters, "Here it is, try to hit it." He looked and acted absolutely fearless on the mound, even when he struggled, which is the type of mentality a closer needs to perform well, which Beck did far more often than not.
Rod Beck's Career Stats