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Former All-Star Beck dead at 38

Former All-Star Beck dead at 38

SAN FRANCISCO -- Rod Beck, a former reliever for the Giants, Padres, Cubs and Red Sox, has passed away, the Giants said on Sunday. Beck was 38 years old.

Beck's body was found in bed at noon on Saturday by two female friends who were visiting his North Phoenix home and there was no sign of foul play, said Sgt. Andy Hill, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Dept., which was dispatched to the residence along with medics from the Phoenix Fire Dept. The Giants were informed of Beck's death on Saturday night and told the players, announcers and front-office staff, who were openly talking about the death prior to Sunday's 7-2 victory over the Yankees at AT&T Park.

"It comes as a complete shock," said Barry Bonds, who played with Beck on the Giants from 1993-97. "We all just found out. He was a great guy, great for us when he was here."

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No cause was released, pending an autopsy and possible toxicology report, Hill said, adding that an investigation is standard when a dead body is found alone. Also, Hill said undisclosed evidence was confiscated from the scene by investigating officers. Beck had a history of substance abuse and went into drug rehab only months before his career ended with the Padres in 2004, when current Giants skipper Bruce Bochy was the manager in San Diego.

"We tried everything we could do to help him," Bochy said.

Beck came up with the Giants in 1991 and holds the team record for most saves in a single season with 48 in 1993, although his career best was 51 for the Cubs in 1998. His 199 saves with the Giants is second in club history to Robb Nen, who finished with 206, and his 286 saves during his 13-year career places him 22nd on Major League Baseball's all-time list.

A three-time All-Star with the Giants, Beck was nicknamed "Shooter" by his teammates on that 1993 team that won 103 games but lost the National League West title on the last day of the season to the Braves.

"Because he was a gunslinger, man," said Mike Krukow, the former Giants pitcher and current announcer who retired in 1989, before Beck joined the team. "That's the way he approached everything. He had a huge heart, a Hall of Fame heart."

Beck was estranged from his wife, Stacy, who traveled to California, where the couple's two daughters were in camp.

The Giants were told about Beck's death on Saturday night by Rick Thurmond, Beck's agent, who requested that the team refrain from issuing a formal statement until the girls were informed.

"Rod became a fixture in the San Francisco community where he spent most of his career," Thurman said on Sunday. "Shooter was a hard-nosed, blue-collar kind of guy who wore his heart on his sleeve, and that is what made him so endearing to baseball fans everywhere."

The Giants family has been rocked by a number of deaths in the last year or two, including Tom Haller, Ed Bailey, Jose Uribe, Chris Brown, Pat Dobson and Harmon Burns, the team's majority owner. Beck's was the latest to digest.

"Everyone in the Giants organization is deeply saddened by the loss of a dear friend," Peter Magowan, the team's managing general partner, said. "Rod Beck was a true Giant in every sense of the word -- from his dedication on the field to his selflessness away from the park. Today, our hearts go out to the Beck family. Rod will be deeply missed."

"He was just a regular person," added Brian Sabean, the team's general manager. "I don't want to say he was almost like a civilian in the clubhouse, but he wasn't at all like a baseball player. He loved cowboy boots, he loved kids, he loved country music and he loved to smoke cigarettes. He was an upbeat personality who respected the game, loved the game and loved the Giants. His stay here certainly set the tone for a lot of things we were able to do."

Likewise, the Padres have had their share of bereavement. Since Alan Wiggins died in 1991, Eric Show, Jack Krol, Mike Darr and Ken Caminiti have all perished young. Bochy, then a backup catcher, played with Wiggins and Show and when Krol was a coach on San Diego's 1994 NL pennant-winning team. Bochy managed Darr, Caminiti and Beck during his 12 seasons in the San Diego dugout.

Wiggins, Show and Caminiti all suffered drug-related deaths. And Beck was barely beginning his second season with the Padres when he went into rehab. He was released by the team on Aug. 24, 2004, and never pitched in the Major Leagues again.

"[Beck] went out and got some help, I know that," Bochy said on Sunday. "In '04, during the spring, he had some problems. That's when he went into rehab, but I don't know where."

The previous season, with Trevor Hoffman recovering from shoulder surgery, Beck was reclaimed off the junk heap and saved 20 games in 20 chances. It was one of the top feel-good stories in San Diego of an otherwise dreary 2003 season, the last for the franchise at Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.

"This is a bad day in baseball to lose a guy at such an early age who's done so much for the game," Bochy said. "[In San Diego], what a job he did for us. We were desperate at the time for a closer. I know he and Trevor became very good friends. He was such a warrior on the mound. Anybody who played with Rod Beck can tell you just what a great teammate he was, what a big heart he had."

Beck grew up in the Los Angeles area and was drafted in 1986 by the A's, who traded him to the Giants two years later. His San Francisco run ended when he became a free agent after the NL West-winning 1997 season, and he signed with the Cubs. Beck was on the mound against the Giants a year later and closed the NL Wild Card playoff game at Wrigley Field, putting the Cubs back into the playoffs for the first time since 1989. But he was traded to Boston before the 1999 season was complete.

Though his Cubs tenure lasted less than two years, he was fondly remembered in Chicago. Last Sept. 2 at Wrigley, Beck was invited back for a Giants-Cubs game to throw out the first pitch and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

"I heard the stories that he said, 'I'll pitch every day,' and that's the attitude I have towards pitching," said Cubs reliever Scott Eyre, who like Beck, lists the Giants and Cubs on his resume. "He pitched every single day and he saved every game for weeks straight. He went out there with nothing, and still had all the confidence in the world."

Beck's Boston tenure was equally as short, lasting little more than two years before he blew out his right elbow. But "Shooter" still had his impact.

"I'm just a little lost for words," said Jason Varitek, the Red Sox catcher, who played with Beck during those years. "He didn't have the same fastball by the time he got to Boston, but you learn different ways to succeed. He could pitch. More so, he was just such a great teammate. A great person to be around. I just can't say enough about what a great teammate he was."

Beck missed the 2002 season after having Tommy John surgery, but in early 2003 he tried to rejuvenate his career with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. In Des Moines, he became a mini personality, living in his mobile home outside the outfield fence and drinking beer with fans when they dropped by to visit.

"He came there and his stuff wasn't what it was, but he had the savvy and the desire, even in Triple-A," said Mike Quade, the Cubs' third-base coach now and the Iowa manager back then. "It wasn't easy for him. He had a trailer and lived outside the ballpark. He was a fun-loving guy, a competitive guy, and he loved life."

With Beck's passing, that's undoubtedly the way he will be remembered most.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporters Carrie Muskat and Ian Browne contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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