Earlier today, I wrote about the 30th anniversary of the famous Sandberg game.
June 23 is also the anniversary of something a bit sadder for Cubs fans. Seven years ago today, former Cubs reliever Rod Beck died, far too young at 38.
That prompted two self-described "unremarkable, middle-aged baseball fans," Steve Trimble and Warren Spicer, to create "Rod Beck Day." Timble wrote me:
After Beck’s death we spoke on the phone, shared our best memories of the Shooter and vowed to speak every year on June 23rd. Our idea is that each year fans of Rod Beck should call a friend who is a fan, talk about Rod Beck and in turn, that person should call another friend and talk about Rod Beck and pass these memories forward. The goal of these acts is to remember Rod Beck, his career and the moments (both good and bad) that he brought us as baseball fans.
That's a noble thing, I think. Beck, of course, saved 51 games for the 1998 wild-card Cubs, with the last month of them likely coming with a shredded elbow; he wound up having surgery early in 1999 and was traded away to the Red Sox for no one useful.
Out of baseball after 2001 -- he didn't pitch at all in 2002 -- he signed with the Cubs in 2003, likely because of his Giants connection with then-new Cubs manager Dusty Baker.
He spent two months at Triple-A Iowa, where he posted a 0.59 ERA and 1.043 WHIP in 21 appearances, all the while living in his Winnebago parked behind the scoreboard at Sec Taylor Stadium in Des Moines. His contract called for him to be granted free agency if he hadn't been called up by June 1 -- and that's exactly what happened.
Beck went on to have a fine year for the Padres in 2003, posting 20 saves with a 1.78 ERA and 1.015 WHIP. The Cubs sure could have used him in a certain game during the 2003 NLCS. Why they let him go, in a year they could have used all the relief help they could get, after such dominating numbers at Iowa, is a mystery.
The Beck I'll remember is the one seen at the top of this post -- that's him with his arms raised after the Cubs won the 1998 wild-card tiebreaker.
Raise a glass to Rod Beck today or tonight. He'd have appreciated that.