In a professional sports world that has gone metro-sexual, politically correct and health conscience in the past 10 years, there are always a few athletes that buck the trend and as my college buddies and I like to say, “Do what they want.” From what I gathered over his professional career, Rod Beck did what he wanted, when he wanted. While he may not have known what the inside of a gym looked like, he definitely knew what the inside of a beer bottle did. He “ripped heaters” as he put it and enjoyed the night life as much as the next guy. It did not matter if he was at Yakzees or Bernies or behind the centerfield wall at BLANK Stadium in Iowa. He threw fastballs and drank beer and from what I gather, he was very good at both endeavors. In 1998 Rod Beck notched 51 saves for the beloved Cubs and touted a 3.02 ERA. He struck out 81 batters in 80.3 innings and also picked up three victories. He was on the hill when the Cubs defeated his former team the San Francisco Giants in the 1998 playoff “play-in” game. While his Big League stint in Chicago was rather brief, he was far more successful than other established Closers who bombed on the North Side, ala Dave Smith and Goose Gossage. Cub fans learned to love his fast ball along with his beer gut and noticeable mustache. He looked like any old Joe out there on the mound, giving us crazy dreams that maybe it could be us someday. Okay, maybe he did not look like any old Joe, but you get the point.
In 2003 while playing for the Iowa Cubs, Beck notoriously lived in an RV behind centerfield. He regularly invited fans over to his ‘place’ for beers and baseball talk. There are many testimonials on the web with people talking about meeting him or having a beer with him, and they all say the same thing, Shooter was a great guy. When someone leaves us too early, we always talk about how great the person was or how much promise they had. Sometimes that seems phony, but in this case, it is not. Shooter never let his status as a professional athlete cloud his interactions with fans and others. He was laid back, professional and welcoming. He was a ‘good guy.’
Unfortunately things do not make sense and people are gone before we even got to know them. That was case with the Cubs and unfortunately with life itself. At times like this I like to think about the regrets he may have had. Without knowing him personally and from a distance, it would appear that there could not have had too many regrets. Rod Beck lived life in his own lane, whether it was fast or slow, no one will really know.
Monday night at Wrigley, the Cubs had a moment of silence for Rod. I have experienced many of said moments at Wrigley before. Normally, there are one or two idiots who still do not think rules and announcements apply to them. However, it was dead quiet Monday night, conveying a real respect from the Faithful. It was definitely a moment I will remember and cherish forever.
Rod Beck is a living example to me, he achieved a level so many strive for, but fall short of and he did it while looking just like you or me. In the end I will always remember his dangling right arm swinging up and back, his beer gut and his mustache, but most of all I will remember that Rod Beck, more than almost anyone, simply did what he wanted to.
Wherever you are, Stay Classy Shooter!