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Bob Welch, 1990 Cy Young Award winner, dies at 57

Jun 10, 2014, 2:57 PM EDT

Bob Welch

Some sad news: former Dodgers and Athletics pitcher Bob Welch died today. He was 57-years-old. No cause of death has yet been reported.

Welch debuted for the Dodgers in 1978. He made national fame when he struck out Reggie Jackson with two on and two out in the top of the ninth inning to end Game 2 of the 1978 World Series, giving the Dodgers a two games to zero lead. Welch was just 21 at the time and Jackson was a year removed from his three-homer performance against the Dodgers in the 1977 Series. It was a big deal.

If Welch had done nothing else in his career he’d probably still be remembered for that. But of course he did much. He won 211 games over 17 seasons, starting 462 of his 506 games. He was a reliable and often very good rotation starter for some very good Dodgers teams. He moved upstate to Oakland for the 1988 season and on through the rest of his career, which ended when the 1994-95 strike began.

His best season is one everyone remembers: 1990, when he went 27-6 for the AL Champion Athletics, winning the Cy Young Award. It stands as the most wins since Steve Carlton won 27 in 1972. The last time anyone won more was when Denny McLain won 31 in 1968. No pitcher has won as many as 25 since Welch did it in 1990. Welch ended his career with a record of 211-146 and an ERA of 3.47. He struck out 1,969 batters and walked 1,034 in 3,092 innings. He had 28 shutouts and 61 career complete games.

Welch wrote a book after he retired about his battles with alcoholism during his career and was always frank about how it nearly derailed that career in the 1980s. He was the pitching coach for the Arizona State Sun Devils and then, for one year, coached the pitchers for the Diamondbacks when they won the World Series in 2001. He remained in Arizona in various coaching, scouting and advising capacities over the past several years.

RIP Bob.

  1. tigersfandan - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    Rest in peace.

  2. rbj1 - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:13 PM

    Far too young

  3. thisdamnbox - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    As an old Giants fan, I give a salute to the old “Giant Killer.” As an old As fan (you can like both in the Bay Area) I thank him for so many incredible seasons and wish him some rest and peace in the beyond, whatever that may be…

  4. ripwarrior - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    Just ordered his book for 59 cents. Never knew he was an alchy.

    • daviddmsvcp - Jun 11, 2014 at 12:34 AM

      alchy, as in alcoholic? Please, let’s have more respect for this fine ball player. But, he was a child molester.

    • don444 - Jun 13, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      Hmm, you must not have followed baseball closely during that time as his status as a recovering-alcoholic was well-documented during his rebirth with the great A’s teams of the late 80s and early 90s.

  5. baberuthslegs - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    Reggie’s reaction to being struck out to end the game is a classic. If you guys and gals ever get a chance to see it, do so.

    • yahmule - Jun 10, 2014 at 8:01 PM

      As I recall, he flings the bat off the dugout wall and nearly skulls Bob Lemon, who responds by cussing him out.

  6. koufaxmitzvah - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:33 PM

    My parents divorced in the early ’70s. I was young and learning the lessons of life. If you want to talk to your father, pick up the phone and give him a call.

    Dad is a Yankee. Straight from the Bronx. Met my mom at UCLA. Little did he know that his son would one day be a National League snob. He also didn’t know, back in the ’70s, how impassioned his son was for baseball and the Dodgers. Sure, he knew I cried like the 7 year old I was when Reggie hit those 3 homers the year before, but he didn’t know that unbridled joy directed towards his losing ballclub would boomerang into the phone call he received almost one year later.

    “Hello?”
    “Reggie struck out! Welch struck Reggie out! 2 games to nothing! Reggie sucks!”
    “Who is this?”

    My first trash talking moment ever, and I befuddled my father.

    Thanks, Bob Welch, for helping me learn the game, and for being an inspiration for my baseball passion. Your name will always make me smile.

    • jbutry - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:42 PM

      this is what sports is about. that’s awesome.

      • don444 - Jun 13, 2014 at 11:43 AM

        To each his own I suppose, but that’s really NOT what sports are about all things considered.

    • crackersnap - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:56 PM

      So when the Yankees then ripped off 4 straight to win that series, defeating the Dodgers again (consecutively), did your father call you back and rub your nose in it? Or did he leave you alone with the silence of futile embarrassment?

      • indaburg - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:11 PM

        Did you read the part where it said he was 7 years old when this happened?

      • koufaxmitzvah - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:12 PM

        My father is a gentleman who did what all fathers did when their team beat their son’s team. He took me to Farrells Olde Time Ice Cream Parlour and pissed my mom off by ruining my appetite for some real food.

      • RickyB - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:50 PM

        Oh how I miss Farrell’s. Now I have to stop for ice cream on my way home before I have dinner with the family.

      • stex52 - Jun 11, 2014 at 11:53 AM

        You Yankees fans are getting progressively more thin-skinned. I used to think you could rise above the Sox fans.

      • don444 - Jun 13, 2014 at 11:45 AM

        Enough of all this queer talk about ice cream and long-since irrelevant fathers.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jun 11, 2014 at 9:45 AM

      Wonderful story Sandy. Thanks for sharing.
      On a side note…damn…you ARE old. You got me by two years. Suck it!

      • stex52 - Jun 11, 2014 at 11:52 AM

        Let’s not go there, gentlemen. Or I will tell you about going to the opening game at the Astrodome with my father in 1965.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jun 11, 2014 at 2:20 PM

        Lol! I would love to hear it Suze. Of course, I could discuss baseball all day long. As could you!

    • stex52 - Jun 11, 2014 at 11:54 AM

      Great story, Koufax.

  7. mikhelb - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    RIP

  8. jbutry - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    good post craig, always good to recognize the guys that were there for along time, put in good games, but dont catch the headlines like the top stars or HOF’ers. I dont want to look for it, but you know there is some article out there lamenting the loss of a top talent from the “pre-steroid era.” Instead I prefer this kind of post that just recognizes Welch’s accomplishments without advancing some kind of narrative.

    • jbutry - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:52 PM

      damn typos, I know it should be “a long time” before anyone points it out. Thanks internet.

    • stercuilus65 - Jun 10, 2014 at 8:02 PM

      Never forget Friday June 17, 1983, Welch did just about all a pitcher could do defeating Mario Soto and the Reds 1-0 with Welch’s HR being the only run score. Talk about doing it from both sides! It was the second 1-0 shutout he threw that year.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/LAN/LAN198306170.shtml

  9. aceshigh11 - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    Man, I remember his 27-6 season as a kid, and being awestruck by the number of wins. I was a bit of a stat nerd even at age 12.

    RIP, Mr. Welch.

  10. DJ MC - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:54 PM

    Wow. Way too young.

    I’m going to have to dust off my old “Super Duper Baseball Bloopers” cassette and watch the “Reggie at the Bat” segment.

    “But Blair walked, and Dent singled,
    which made Lasorda belch.
    So to face the mighty Reggie,
    he brought in Bobby Welch.”

  11. papajack1259 - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:18 PM

    I like him more that he never wore the pinstripes. George tried but he was a west coast boy RIP

  12. nashvilletrojan - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:33 PM

    Sad news….RIP Bob!

    I remember being at that game as a teenager. It was magic! As a lifelong Dodger fan, that game and where I sat has always ranked as my fondest MLB memory.

  13. ditchparrot19 - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    I went pheasant hunting in South Dakota in December 2010 with Welch, Curt Young, Young’s brother, Young’s nephew and a former A’s minor leaguer named Reese Lambert. Welch and I drove all the way out there and back in his Tahoe to accommodate my three bird dogs. The other guys all flew from wherever they were.

    He was without a doubt one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. At that stage in his life, he had zero interest in being recognized for his baseball accomplishments, and he genuinely cared about people, no matter their station in life. The last contact I had with him, I sent him a book by the great bass fisherman Kevin VanDam (he was thrilled to learn that the best ever in that game was a fellow Michigan native) and George Vescey’s excellent biography of Stan Musial. Vescey had co-written Welch’s own book, “Five O’Clock Comes Early.”

    He made a lot of candid admissions on those long drives. One of them was that he’d yet to touch his pension, but would start taking the monthly checks for $9,000-plus fairly soon. Hope he got to enjoy at least a little bit of that. He also spoke about “falling off the wagon” for one night in 2001 and nearly killing himself in an auto wreck. It was a chilling story.

    RIP, fine sir. I hope to pursue the long-tailed birds with you again in fields that never run out of them.

    • ditchparrot19 - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:51 PM

      He also told me precisely what Roger Clemens was hollering at umpire Terry Cooney from behind his glove in the 1990 playoff game – he was basically screaming it and it could be heard as plain as day from the dugout. That can’t be repeated here.

    • yahmule - Jun 10, 2014 at 8:08 PM

      This was a nice post. Thanks for sharing it.

    • ditchparrot19 - Jun 10, 2014 at 9:30 PM

      Here’s another one: His rig was basically a disorganized mess and once when he had to go searching for something he came up with an old address book he’d thought he’d lost for good. He started looking through it (I was driving at the time) and came to a listing for a guy who worked at a bait shop he used to frequent. He started talking about how fond he was of the guy and how he’d try to contact him when he got home.

      I glanced over and noticed that the next name down was Mick Fleetwood. He told of how he’d gone to a Halloween party at Fleetwood’s place many years back wearing absolutely nothing except a trench coat. He tried to put the moves on Stevie Nicks, but had gotten shot down. He said she really wasn’t all that hot up close, anyway. Ha, ha!

  14. philliesblow - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    Sad, local boy that made good. Also the recipient of one of Berman’s early, if way to obvious, nick-names, Ebony Eyes.

  15. tmc602014 - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    I was a kid, too – HS rather than seven – and that Reggie game just killed me! I hated that guy! I don’t know what Vin said, the following year, but in my imagination it was “And Lasorda calls on the young fireballer to face the seasoned slugger…” That was great baseball! Thanks, Bob Welch, for one of the most delicious moments in memory…

  16. pisano - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    Way too young to leave the earth. Good pitcher, and a good person. God rest his soul.

  17. coryfor3 - Jun 10, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    Underrated. Great pitcher.

  18. missingdiz - Jun 10, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    I was an Oakland fan in the 80s, early 90s. I think most people underrated Welch, even in 1990. The problem was he pitched third in the rotation. I’d argue that he wasn’t as good as Dave Stewart even in 1990, although it was pretty close, but he was much better that year than Mike Moore, the number 2 starter. Of course he won the CY because of all the wins, which most people would discount today. On the other hand, he was almost completely ignored by HoF voters largely because, I suspect, he “only” had 211 wins. But his career ERA puts him in some very impressive company; e.g., Tom Glavine.

    I hope we can come to some reasonable evaluation of wins and win % soon.

    From what I’ve heard, Bob Welch was a good guy. He was honest about his drinking in a way that might have helped others more than guys who go bonkers with religion and aggressively preach at people.

    • yahmule - Jun 10, 2014 at 8:10 PM

      Don Newcombe, who battled the same demons as a young man, became a mentor for him.

    • cohnjusack - Jun 11, 2014 at 7:50 AM

      I have several problems with the Glavine comp:

      1. Yes, they had similar career ERAs, but Glavine put up his in a much worse era for pitchers. As a result, his lead adjusted ERA+ is 118 compared to Welch at 106

      2. Glavine did it in 1400 more innings. There’s a whole downside of his career that Welch didn’t even get to.

      3. Not related to Glavine, but who underrated him in 1990? He pretty easily won the Cy Young in one of the worst votes in history (Clemens put up an ERA more than a run lower. How is that underrating him?

      Welch was an excellent pitcher who had a wonderful career. But the underrated in 1990/Tom Glavine comps are a bit silly.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jun 11, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        Damn Cusack. Having a bad day?

      • missingdiz - Jun 11, 2014 at 3:20 PM

        I meant I had the impression that we A’s fans underrated him. I think the CY voters overrated his 27 wins. But there would have been arguments either way, same as here.

        I’m not saying that Welch’s career was as good overall as Glavine’s. His career ERA was though. Take a look at the list. Around Welch you’ll find Curt Schilling, David Cone, Johnny Sain, Ken Holtzman, Dennis Eckersley, and some other pretty good pitchers. ERA is an imperfect measure, of course, but it was a better one than wins in 1990 and it’s way better now.

  19. ponchorides - Jun 10, 2014 at 6:49 PM

    I went to the 1990 All-Star game at Wrigley field. We were in Uecker seats, the end of the upper deck down the first base line. The tickets were free. Bob Welch started for the American League. During the rain delay, my buddy and I were leaning on a railing, looking down on the field. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a guy in uniform going up to my section. I pay no attention. I figure it’s a fan. A few minutes later, another guy with us comes down and says “Did you see Bob Welch?” He was still in his uniform in the 7th inning after starting the game. He came all the way up to the Uecker seats to see his friends and he signed autographs while he was up there.

  20. stercuilus65 - Jun 10, 2014 at 8:03 PM

    Never forget Friday June 17, 1983, Welch did just about all a pitcher could do defeating Mario Soto and the Reds 1-0 with Welch’s HR being the only run score. Talk about doing it from both sides! It was the second 1-0 shutout he threw that year.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/LAN/LAN198306170.shtml

    0 0

  21. markofapro - Jun 10, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    I hated the A’s (still do) but cheered for Bob Welch.

    RIP

  22. stlouis1baseball - Jun 11, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    RIP Bob. You were one hell of a pitcher. No arguing that.

  23. don444 - Jun 12, 2014 at 12:52 AM

    Only eight pitchers have won as many as 25 games in a season since Denny McLain became the first hurler in three decades to eclipse 30 in 1968 and none have bettered Welch’s 27 from 1990. An underrated accomplishment by an underrated guy who will be missed.

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