r.i.p., rod beck

i did an actual double-take after firing up espn.com last night. the top headline of the deck said \”former reliever beck dead at 38.\” rod beck? no freakin\’ way.

i didn\’t have any particular attachment to rod beck; he was just a successful mid-90s reliever, not unlike jeff brantley or randy myers or anyone else from that era. however, beck absolutely personified a closer: the menacing look, the moustache, the long hair, the feel that he\’d have no problem whatsoever busting you under the chin with a fastball. the anti-nathan, if you will.

beck made his name with the giants, but– for me– i\’ll always remember him as a chicago cub. it was saturday, july 4, 1998, and i was in a bar in downtown chicago. i was there for training for CSC, and several of us decided to hit some random drinking establishment in the early afternoon to prep for the fireworks display on lake michigan later that night. the cubbies were playing the pirates, and, as i am wont to do, i found myself transfixed on the game, which was being shown on one of the multiple large-screen TVs. chicago was up 5-4 when beck was brought in for the ninth.

he looked… like a bull. you could imagine the smoke coming out of his nose. he was kicking dirt, spitting, glaring… i don\’t remember any of the pirates batters, but they all looked pretty frightened about stepping in the batter\’s box against beck. he dispatched the pirates 1-2-3 to lead to another cubs win, a further step on their trip to the playoffs that year. (incidentally, beck imploded during the NLDS against the braves.)

rest in peace, mr. beck. baseball needs more characters like you.







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