Bob Welch, former Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics standout pitcher who won the 1990 AL Cy Young award, died on Monday at the age of 57.
Welch, who was perhaps best known for a theatrical confrontation with Reggie Jackson in the 1978 World Series, was found dead in his bathroom by police. The official cause of death is pending.
In game two of the 1978 World Series between the Dodgers and the Yankees, the 21-year-old Welch, with only 23 regular season games under his belt, faced hitting machine Reggie Jackson. The Hall of Famer, who had collected three hits, including a home run in game one, came up to the plate with two outs and two on in the ninth inning and the Blue Crew holding on to a 4-3 lead.
After working the count to full over eight pitches, the entire stadium stood as darkness set in over Chavez Ravine. Steve Dilbeck, a sports writer for the Los Angeles Times, was covering the Dodgers, reporting on his First World series. He described the occasion:
Then on his ninth pitch to Jackson, king of the dramatic moment, Welch fired a high blazing fastball that Jackson swung under, his body corkscrewing, the sellout crowd erupting with the strikeout. Jackson walked off in anger, flashing a disbelieving look back at Welch before firing his bat against the dugout wall.
Dilbeck considers the moment to be second in Dodger lore to the hobbling Kirk Gibson going yard against the Oakland Athletics in game one of the 1988 World Series.
Welch had contributed to the Oakland Athletics as well, helping them win the World Series in 1989. The following year, he notched 27 wins, earning him the coveted AL Cy Young award for most outstanding pitcher in the league.
Significantly, Welch struggled with alcoholism early in his career but was apparently able to defeat his demons. He chronicled his battle with booze in a book that he wrote in 1981, Five O’Clock Comes Early: A Ballplayer’s Battle With Alcoholism. “The fact is, I’m crazy when I’m drunk,” Welch wrote. “There’s every chance I would have been dead by now if I was drinking.”
Mark McGwire, the current Dodgers hitting coach, remembered his former teammate from when he played with Welch in Oakland, “I wish there were more teammates like him throughout the game today. He was a fierce competitor… I don’t think there was a player who knew him who didn’t care for him.” Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane lamented: “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.”
Welch’s finished with a win/loss record of 211-146, with a 3.47 ERA in 17 seasons with the Dodgers (1978-87) and Athletics (1988-94). Moreover, he helped the Arizona Diamondbacks win the World Series in 2001 as their pitching coach.