Rod Beck was a menacing sight on the mound, with a bushy mustache and a searing stare that intimidated batters throughout his 13-year career as one of baseball's best closers.
Yet his friends in the game knew Beck as a hardworking teammate and a jovial character whose early death saddened players all around the major leagues.
|A favorite of fans and teammates, Rod Beck played for four teams in a 13-year career. (Getty Images)|
"He was a great guy -- always happy, always picking guys up," said Giants outfielder Ryan Klesko, who played with Beck in San Diego. "I know he went through some tough times in the last couple of years, and it just crushes you."
Beck was discovered by police officers responding to a call to his home in suburban Phoenix, police department spokesman Andy Hill said Sunday. Foul play is not suspected, though the cause of death might not be known for several days.
With unruly hair framing his piercing eyes and an aggressive arm swing before delivering a pitch, the outgoing right-hander was a colorful baseball personality and a three-time All-Star. He spent the first seven of his 13 big league seasons with the San Francisco Giants.
Beck was popular with teammates, fans and reporters, but battled personal demons late in his life. He abruptly left the San Diego Padres for a two-month stint in rehabilitation during his final season in 2004.
"He was having some problems, and I just knew he went into rehab and joined us later that year," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, the Padres' manager at the time. "It's so sad when you see healthy players go at such a young age. This is a bad day in baseball to lose a guy who did so much for the game."
Nicknamed "Shooter" and well-known for his fondness for country music, cowboy boots and cigarettes, Beck pitched for the Giants (1991-97), the Chicago Cubs (1998-99) and the Boston Red Sox (1999-2001) before finishing his career with the Padres (2003-04).
While working his way back to the majors in 2003, Beck pitched for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs and famously lived in his Winnebago parked just beyond the outfield fence. Delighted fans would drop by for autographs and stay for a beer -- until the Padres called.
"You wanted him to have the ball at the end of the game," said Pirates outfielder Xavier Nady, who played with Beck in San Diego in 2003, when he picked up 20 saves and three wins in an incredible 2½-month stretch. "He was very good at what he did. He'll always be respected for what he did as a closer. He was a guy who was fun to be around, and made other guys smile."
Beck set the Giants' single-season record with 48 saves in 1993. He was on the mound when San Francisco clinched the NL West title in 1997, and was the Giants' career saves leader with 199 until Robb Nen passed him in 2002.
Beck was a favorite at Candlestick Park through most of the 1990s, but left to sign with the Cubs as a free agent in 1998.