Sunday, June 24, 2007

Former Cub Rod Beck dies at 38.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Rod Beck, a former reliever for the Giants, Padres, Cubs and Red Sox, has passed away, the Giants said on Sunday. Beck was 38 years old.
The Giants were informed of Beck's death on Saturday night and told the players, announcers and front-office staff, who were openly talking about the death prior to Sunday's game against the Yankees at AT&T Park.
Details began to emerge throughout the day, although no cause of death was released. Beck had a history of substance abuse and went into drug rehab only months before his career ended with the Padres in 2004, when current Giants skipper Bruce Bochy was the manager in San Diego. Beck was found dead in bed in his Northeast Phoenix residence.
"It comes as a complete shock," said Barry Bonds, who played with Beck on the Giants from 1993-97. "We all just found out. He was a great guy, great for us when he was here."
Beck came up with the Giants in 1991 and holds the team record for most saves in a single season with 48 in 1993, although his career best was 51 for the Cubs in 1998. His 199 saves with the Giants is second in club history to Robb Nen, who finished with 206, and his 286 saves during his 13-year career places him 22nd on Major League Baseball's all-time list.
Beck was nicknamed "The Shooter" by his teammates on that 1993 team that won 103 games but lost the National League West title on the last day of the season to the Braves.
"Because he was a gunslinger, man," said Mike Krukow, the former Giants pitcher and current announcer who retired in 1989, before Beck joined the team. "That's the way he approached everything. He had a huge heart, a Hall of Fame heart."
Phoenix police were investigating the death because Beck was found alone, the Arizona Republic reported on its Web site, also saying that no foul play was suspected. Beck was estranged from his wife, who traveled to California, where the couple's two daughters were in camp.
The Giants were told about Beck's death on Saturday night by Rick Thurmond, his agent, who requested that the team refrain from issuing a formal statement until the girls were informed.
The Giants family has been rocked by a number of deaths in the last year or two, including Tom Haller, Ed Bailey, Jose Uribe, Chris Brown, Pat Dobson and Harmon Burns, the team's majority owner.
"Everyone in the Giants organization is deeply saddened by the loss of a dear friend," Peter Magowan, the team's managing general partner, 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. Today, our hearts go out to the Beck family. Rod will be deeply missed. Beyond his contributions on the field, Rod will be forever remembered for his huge heart. He was a community leader in the clubhouse and, along with his wife Stacey, always tried to enrich the lives of others."
Likewise, the Padres have had their share of bereavement. Since Alan Wiggins died in 1991, Eric Show, Jack Krol, Mike Darr and Ken Caminiti have all perished young. Bochy, then a backup catcher, played with Wiggins and Show and Krol was a coach on San Diego's 1994 NL pennant-winning team. Bochy managed Darr, Caminiti and Beck during his 12 seasons in the San Diego dugout.
Wiggins, Show and Caminiti all suffered drug-related deaths. And Beck was barely beginning his second season with the Padres when he went into rehab. He was released by the team on Aug. 24, 2004, and never pitched in the Major Leagues again.
"[Beck] went out and got some help, I know that," Bochy said on Sunday. "In '04, during the spring, he had some problems. That's when he went into rehab, but I don't know where."
The previous season, with Trevor Hoffman recovering from shoulder surgery, Beck was reclaimed off the junk heap and saved 20 games in 20 chances.
"This is a bad day in baseball to lose a guy at such an early age who's done so much for the game," Bochy said. "[In San Diego], what a job he did for us. We were desperate at the time for a closer. I know he and Trevor became very good friends. He was such a warrior on the mound. Anybody who played with Rod Beck can tell you just what a great teammate he was, what a big heart he had."
Beck grew up in the Los Angeles area and was drafted in 1986 by the A's, who traded him to the Giants two years later. His San Francisco run ended when he became a free agent after the NL West-winning 1997 season, and he signed with the Cubs. Beck was on the mound against the Giants a year later and closed the NL Wild Card playoff game at Wrigley Field, putting the Cubs back into the playoffs for the first time since 1989. But he was traded to Boston before the 1999 season was complete.
Though his Cubs tenure lasted less than two years, he was fondly remembered in Chicago. Last Sept. 2 at Wrigley, Beck was invited back for a Giants-Cubs game to throw out the first pitch and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
"I heard the stories that he said, 'I'll pitch every day,' and that's the attitude I have towards pitching," said Cubs reliever Scott Eyre, who like Beck, lists the Giants and Cubs on his resume. "He pitched every single day and he saved every game for weeks straight. He went out there with nothing, and still had all the confidence in the world."
Beck's Boston tenure was equally as short, lasting little more than two years before he blew out his right elbow. But "The Shooter" still had his impact.
"I'm just a little lost for words," said Jason Varitek, the Red Sox catcher, who played with Beck during those years. "He didn't have the same fastball by the time he got to Boston, but you learn different ways to succeed. He could pitch. More so, he was just such a great teammate. A great person to be around. I just can't say enough about what a great teammate he was."
Beck missed the 2002 season after having Tommy John surgery, but in early 2003 he tried to rejuvenate his career with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. In Des Moines, he became a mini personality, living in his mobile home outside the outfield fence and drinking beer with fans when they dropped by to visit.
"He came there and his stuff wasn't what it was, but he had the savvy and the desire, even in Triple-A," said Mike Quade, the Cubs' third-base coach now and the Iowa manager back then. "It wasn't easy for him. He had a trailer and lived outside the ballpark. He was a fun-loving guy, a competitive guy, and he loved life."
With Beck's passing on Sunday, that's undoubtedly the way he will be remembered most.

1 comment:

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