Rod Beck Dead

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.
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Comments

from the "Read it, here." article...

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"Hey Shooter," one fan asks. "Can I check the Lakers score?"

"Yeah," Beck replies. "But you'll need the remote. I think it's on the table."

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though his baseball days were seemingly done and he gave more than a lot to fans...baseball could use a few more of those characters.

Reading that article again, today, four years after it first appeared, has been a bit creepy. But yeah, how many people invite random strangers into their home for beer and tv....

I'll never forget Beck being interviewed after the one game playoff game with the Giants-cigarette and beer in his hand, huge smile, hair soaked with champage. He looked like a guy that just finished drywalling a basement!

Sad news. Thanks for '98 Shooter.

Having come from Northern California to Chicago in the late 90s, I was very familiar with Shooter in his SF days. As much as I wasn't following baseball much during those years I loved Rod Beck. He had the swagger and poise of a Led Zepplin roadie. His 1998 performance was all guts.

I must have sent the 2003 ESPN article about him living out of his trailer sharing beers with fans to a dozen friends at the time. In this time of overpampered agent-represented rock star players Rod Beck stood out as a gritty player and down to earth guy who who couldn't wait to share his Hamms and a Marlboro Red with you.

Rod, you've been missed since you left baseball but you'll be missed more now.

Rest in Peace, Shooter.

RIP Rod Beck. What a shame. He and Rick Reuschel were my favorite fat pitcher guys who got it done. How could you not like the guy. Thank God we had him in '98.

That sweep is for you Shooter!!!!

Somebody on the staff should grow a big old mullet in tribute to the Shooter. I nominate Dempster.

Loved you Shooter, I'll never forget those two months in 1998. He seemed to enjoy every day that he lived, a lesson for us all as it can go away at any moment. Fly the W flag at half mast today, live life to its fullest tomorrow.

Raise your beer cans for the Shooter. I think that's how he would have wanted us to say farewell.

RIP Rod.

RIP, Rod. I will have this game in my memory forever. Personal reasons, ya know? I know the one-game-playoff vs SF was more important, but whatever.

the AP news article that all the other news agencies are using incorrectly credits Rod with leading the majors in saves in 1998.

He didn't even lead the NL. The AP could have the decency to a at least run a factually accurate notice about the guy.

Those armchair wannabe journalists, just making up stuff as they go and not bothering to check the facts....

and yeah, a cyber-Toast to Rod Beck! Cheers!

Here is my tribute to The Shooter. Rod you will not be forgotten:

Save #50 (of 51); the last of his regular season "hanging by the hair of his chinny, chin, chin" saves before the one game playoff with SF:

ASTROS 9TH: BECK REPLACED HILL (PITCHING);
Bagwell homered; Alou doubled to right; Everett grounded out
(second to first) [Alou to third]; Eusebio struck out; Clark grounded out (Beck unassisted);
1 R, 2 H, 0 E, 1 LOB.
Cubs 3, Astros 2.

Final Totals R H E LOB
Cubs 3 11 1 8
Astros 2 7 0 6

Thanks for the memories Shooter.

I have a couple of memories of Rod.

In 1998 I traveled to L.A. in May to see the Cubs play the Dodgers. My brothers and I sat in the right field bleachers, before the game Shooter was standing around the warning track by the small outfield wall. I yelled "Hey Shooter, can I get a picture?" He said sure and my brother took a picture of me and Beck by the wall.

As I told him thanks, there was loud "whack" coming from the bull pen. I couldn't see who it was throwing the heat that sounded like some one beating a couch with a tennis racket.

Rod said "That's the kid, and if he doesn't have his control tonight, he's gonna kill someone."

The kid was Kerry Wood.

And I was at the one game playoff when he got Joe Carter to pop up, and watched him jump in the air like a little kid going into a pool on a hot summer day. When I got home I was stunned to find out that his last pitch was an 85 mph "fastball". Shooter was gassed but he went out like a movie hero without any bullets in his gun but when he threw the gun at the bad guy it hit the bad guy in the head and killed him.

I will always remember the big scary looking reliever who was nice to take a picture with me and open enough to show his happiness at helping a struggling franchise get to the playoffs in game 163.

God bless your soul, Rod Beck, and hopefully in your in a place with an endless cooler of beer and friendly people who appreciate the great person that you were.

I have a couple of fond memories of Rod Beck.

In 1998 I made a trip to L.A. in May to see the Cubs play the Dodgers. My brothers and I were sitting in the right field bleachers and before the game Shooter was standing around the warning track signing autographs down by the low outfield wall.

I asked if I can get a picture of him and he said sure. My brother took the picture and as I shook his hand and thank him a loud "WHACK" came from the Cubs bullpen. It sounded like someone was beating a leather couch with a tennis racket.

I asked Rod who is that. And Shooter said "That's the kid, and if he doesn't have his control tonite he's gonna kill someone."

The kid was Kerry Wood.

I was also at the one game playoff against the Giants and was thrilled when Shooter got Joe Carter to pop up to Grace. And the best memory I have and will alway keep is that of Rod Beck jumping for joy into Mark Grace. It was the glee of boy in summer jumping into the pool for the first time.

When I saw ESPN that night they said Beck got Carter out on a 83 mph "fastball." Rod was gassed. Like a movie hero, who had an empty gun and a monster about to attack him, he threw the empty gun at the monster and it killed the monster.

God bless your soul, Rod Beck and thank you for giving your right arm to the 1998 team. Hopefully your in a place with an endless cooler and friends there to appreciate your warm smile and personality.

JACOS: this was terrific. thanks.

thanks very much, Jacos. Rod Beck really sort of embodied all that's magical about being a sports fan, and a cubs fan in particular.

Yep, Beck completely threw out his arm for the Cubs in 98--with no complaints. The ultimate soldier, and a true throwback.

And - managers or players complain when one reliever has to pitch 3 or 4 times in a week..."The bullpen is tired."

Requiescat in Pacem, Shooter. And in Paradise, may there always be a tight game, cold beer, and unfiltered smokes!

I will always remember Shooter on the mound picking up the sign with his right arm swinging and swinging and swinging.
Hope you're in a happy place, old friend.

Truly sad news, but also makes me a little angry at the same time - 38 years old? I always hoped he'd eventually get into managing someday - hey, look at all the other geniuses out there, he couldn't do any worse, and at the least he would've been a hell of an entertainment value.

Bill Veek would have loved that guy.

Strange thing. I was at a friend's house this moring (In Northern California) and we were talking about Rod Beck and how much we liked him. He's a Bay area guy so he used to follow him with the Giants. No more than 2 minutes later Len and Bob announced that he had died. Very strange.

Rest in peace, Rod. And thank you for you valuable contributions to the Cubs during that wonderful summer on '98.

Sad. So sad. Always regretted not making a roadtrip to meet him (and have a beer with him) while he was in Iowa and never regretted it anymore than today. My favorite players are the ones who seem to enjoy it and he's up there with the best of them.

vaya con dios amigo.
you're one of a kind - a kind we don't see enough of. you embody so much that is good about this blessed game.

thanks,
a fan.

from the tribune

By Paul Sullivan

Rod Beck would be the first to tell you he wasn't an athlete. "I'm a baseball player."

That's why he related so well with modern day fans, who were used to players becoming celebrities, not regular Joes. When Beck was at Triple-A Iowa in '03, trying to make a comeback, he parked his RV behind Sec Taylor Stadium and invited fans to his postgame parties.

"I went in there a few times after games," Cubs reliever Michael Wuertz recalled on Sunday. "It was amazing how many people really went back there behind the wall in centerfield. He'd have his cooler underneath, and grounds crew people and fans would all come back. That's how he was. He went about it and it was unbelievable how many fans would go back there and how he'd treat the fans. That's how he was. Just being able to take bits and pieces from him, was a great thing. It's so sad. What he's done will leave a lasting impression on me, making that transition to the bullpen.

"He treated fans like friends, no matter who they are. He always said it like it was. Watching him do that is an incredible thing."

Beck was one of my all-time favorite players, and we used to talk about his feelings on karma. He wanted the Cubs to stop raising the "L" flag after losses, saying that it was sending out "bad karma."

What a guy. They don't make athletes, er, ballplayers, like Rod Beck any more.

RIP Shooter =(

I loved watching Beck throughout 1998 and got lucky enough to be at the Wild Card game that year. This spring I got to meet Rod at the Cubs Convention and he lived up to the personal and fun nature that he has always been known for. This is an unfortunate day for all.

The passing of Rod Beck this past Saturday at his home in Phoenix, Arizona was not just the passing of a truly unique baseball talent... But the passing of a truly unique HUMAN BEING.

Most people know Rod Beck for his nasty split finger, fu manchu, mullet and arm swing. Maybe they even know about his 286 lifetime saves and sparkling 3.30 ERA. But that was only the tip of the Shooter iceberg. He was a man that was beloved by all who came in contact with him. A generous, kind, giving man with a heart of gold and a flare for a good time.

Late in his life he abandoned his signature beer can in favor of a Mike's Hard Lemonade bottle, or strawberry daiquiri. He claimed it to be a "health drink" if a bannana was added to the blend. He loved baseball, and would often sit at his home hunching over his pool table looking up and announcing decades old statistics from a baseball encyclopedia. He had a repect for the game and how it should be played.

He carried multiple cheese sticks in his pockets in case he might've needed a snack, and would devour anything made of white chocolate.

He loved to play wiffle ball (he liked hitting much better than pitching) and truly relished a good game of darts, even inventing his own game.

He loved to watch Nick at Nite, and tivoed "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" regularly. He thought Carlton was "funny as hell."

He loved his children more than anything, and couldn't help but brag to anyone who would listen about their progress.

He wanted to take a serious shot at an acting career, having just finished shooting on an independant film called "Work Week", where he played a mean, nasty hit man with a distinct sense of humor that Rod and ONLY Rod could have pulled off.

He loved his whole family, every one of his friends (even the ones he hadn't met yet) and every team mate he ever had. He considered Jeff Brantly, and Mark Garce his favorite teammates of all time (with many in the running) and looked at Dusty Baker the utmost respect. He always said that Dusty "Treated me like a man", and that was all Rod needed to go to war for someone. He was disappointed that he never got to be a home player in the Pac Bell park that he campaigned so tirelessly for when he was a Giant.

Rodney Roy Beck would have been a remarkable person, even if he never picked up a baseball. He had a contagious good attitude that could make you smile when you were down.

After retirement, he'd open every piece of fan mail he received and read every letter. He felt so warmed and flattered by the fact that someone would take the time to write him a letter, just to tell him they enjoyed watching him play, or even to ask for an autograph (which he always gave) that he saved every letter.

All he ever wanted was to not be forgotten and I don't think he EVER will be.

Rod Beck was my friend, and I will truly miss him as much for the rest of my days, as I do at this very moment as I type with tears welling up in my eyes. I just wanted to give everyone that might have only seen him play, or met him briefly an insight into the man behind the mustache.

So let's all tip back a cold Mike's Hard Lemonade, or strawberry daiquiri for you healthy folks, and give a salute to the Shooter. Believe me, that's what he would have wanted.

Damn Shame! RIP Big Guy this beer is for you!

Hey, folks. Just want to chime in with my sense of sadness about Rod Beck's passing. I wrote an elegy to him today on the baseball poetry site www.bardball.com. The site accepts everyone's poems, btw...

Sad story. Rod Beck obviously battled alcohol, and probably some other things as well. It's in extremely poor taste for some of you to make comments like "this beer is for you." The man leaves behind a wife and two young kids. Think about their sorrow for a moment.

Silent Towel,

I usually won't criticize someone for writing their opinion, but your latest comment was truly uncalled for. Please don't try to make us all feel even worse over this for calling some of our beer-related remarks "extremely poor taste." Just know that we're all going to miss Rod Beck, and let us remember him the way we want.

but...if you're not doing it the way silent is, you're obviously wrong. get with the program.

RIP, Shooter.

There really aren't many "Rod Becks" in baseball anymore, few and far between. It was a joy to watch him go to war on the mound, he would give everything he had for you. I'm a Giants fan in SF reading your blog here, he was respected everywhere he played. I'll miss him, God Bless.

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