Former Cy Young Award winner (1990) and the last pitcher to win at least 25 games in a season (27), Bob Welch, passed away Monday at the young age of 57. He suffered a heart attack in Seal Beach, California. A fitting location being that he spent his entire career on a California team.
Spending the first ten years of his career with the Los AngelesDodgers, Welch is most famous for something that he did in his rookie year. In game two of the 1978 World Series between the Dodgers and the New York Yankees, 21-year old Welch came into the game and struck out Reggie Jackson, in a long 7-minute, at-bat, to get the win for the Dodgers.
After ten years with Los Angeles, Welch was traded to the Oakland Athletics. The two teams met that season in the World Series, in which the Dodgers gained precious moment in game one when Dennis Eckersley gave up a, now very famous, walk-off home run to Kirk Gibson. The Dodgers went on to take the 1988 World Series.
Welch was part of the A’s 1989 World Series Championship team and while, because of the earthquake that rocked Northern California that year, he never pitched in that series but he finally got the ring he deserved.
After his career Welch worked as the pitching coach for the 2001 World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. In recent years he’d worked in the A’s organization as a special instructor, helping develop young prospects and assisting at spring training.
In 2013 he talked with me in Phoenix, AZ about the being traded to the A’s and then facing his former team in the World Series saying it was “strange,” especially having been with the Dodgers his entire career. He also said how his new A’s teammates embraced him and how he was very lucky to have won a championship with them. Sadly, he will now miss the 25th anniversary celebration of that championship in Oakland this summer.
He then credited a lot of his success in the 1990 season to Eckersley who he said saved most of his 27 wins for him. However the hard throwing right-hander was being modest. He had a great fastball (the one that struck out Jackson) and immense control of his curveball.
Everyone who remembered him Tuesday talked of his infectious personality and of what a quality, life-long type of friend he was to everyone who knew him.
“This is a tragic and sad day, as Bob Welch will be remembered by everyone who knew him as a great teammate and a great friend,” said D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall, who had worked for the Dodgers earlier in his career.
“I don’t think there was a player who knew him who didn’t care for him.”
“This is a sad day for the entire A’s organization. Those of us who knew Bob as a teammate and a friend will miss him greatly.”
In his 17-year career Welch was 211-146 with a 3.47 ERA in his time with the Dodgers (1978-1987) and the Athletics (1988-1994). He is also the co-author of a book about his early struggles with alcoholism called “Five O’Clock Comes Early: A Ballplayer’s Battle With Alcoholism,” in 1981 with George Vecsey.
Even current A’s players who had worked with Welch in recent years expressed their devastation at his early death, which was sudden and unexpected. He’d had no history of heart problems. A’s closer Sean Doolittle tweeted Tuesday,
Devastated to learn of Bob Welch’s passing. The A’s organization lost not only one of its best pitchers, but one of its best people. #RIP35
— Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) June 10, 2014
Welch is survived by his former wife Mary Ellen, sons Dylan, 25, and Riley, 23 and daughter Kelly, 18.