Word has been slowly leaking out
all morning, and now the news has just crawled across ESPN News, so we'll run it, here: Beloved relief ace and former Chicago Cubs pitcher Rod Beck
has died at the age of 38. No cause of death has yet been reported.
Rod arguably is the most popular Cubs player to have spent less than two full seasons on this team. In 1998, he and Terry Mullholland seemingly pitched every day of August and September, helping the Cubs into the playoffs. For instance,
he appeared on August 30th, 31st, September 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th, recording a save each time. He then pitched September 10th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th, and17th, with two wins and 4 saves. 35 times that year he pitched on no days of rest. He led the league in appearances that year, his 51 saves were a career high, although only good for second that year in the NL. He also led the world in grit-per-pitch. His 51st save was on September 28th, the 163rd game of the season
, sending us to the playoffs as the NL Wild Card representative.
Rod attempted a comeback with the Cubs in 2003, but failed to make the major league team. He spent April and May with the Iowa Cubs, living out of his camper trailer, which he parked behind center-field and from which he would host fans after the game. The Cubs released him at the end of May; he quickly signed on with the Padres, who had lost Trevor Hoffman to injury, and proceded to save 20 games with a sub-2 ERA. It proved to be the last in a seemingly unending series of improbable escapes and comebacks.
On a personal note, Rod was my favorite Cubs player of the 1990s and beyond. From 2002 onward, my fantasy baseball teams and leagues have all used his name. As a guy who has never quite fit the mold myself, I loved the wild mullet from the Giants period, the fu manchu, the right arm dangling as if dead, swaying like a pendulum at his side when he stood on the mound, the beer belly, and his unending ability to reinvent himself as a pitcher, in order to continue to get batters out.
The best eulogy you could hope to read about Beck comes from a lengthy ESPN article done during his Iowa Cubs period. Read it, here
Please humor me, and save the usual TCR game-related fodder, at least for awhile, to the game thread below this one.