When Rod Beck came on to close out the game for the San Francisco Giants, you knew you were going to get everything he had. At times creating the drama himself, but finishing with a flourish almost every single time.
“Shooter” looked like a regular guy. A person you would see at the bowling alley, or on a camping trip. He just seemed like one of the guys, and that was his lure.
His arm dangling down beside his rotund frame, the famous moustache, and the glaring eyes staring down the batter in the box. He had the closer thing down pat.
Beck was a San Francisco Giant for seven years. He had 199 saves while with the team, second only to Robb Nen’s 206.
From 1991 through 1997, Beck was the constant amongst a lot of variables. He was there before Barry Bonds, playing with veterans like Will Clark, Bud Black, and Willie McGee. So he understood what the culture was, and what it was supposed to be.
He was also a player who you knew was overachieving. His workman-like attitude on the mound gave him the presence of a person who just won the fantasy camp lottery and got to throw out the first pitch. But Beck was special, he had an arm that was made of rubber.
Beck was an All-Star 3 times with the Giants, and lost approximately 11 saves in 1994 due to the strike (based on the pace he was going). He also holds the Giants single season record, along with Brian Wilson, of 48 saves in 1993.
And even when he didn’t save them, he still finished them. He is second, only to Gary Lavelle (369) in games finished with 346.
He had an absolute amazing run at the end of 1993. While the team was on their run down the stretch, winning 10 out of their last 12 games, Beck saved 7 of those. And if it weren’t for Kevin Gross pitching the Los Angeles Dodgers past the Giants in game 162, and the Colorado Rockies failing to give any resistance to the Atlanta Braves, Beck may have been the first closer in San Francisco Giants history to throw the final pitch.
More from SF Giants History
- SF Giants farm system: Updated top 31 prospect rankings
- Former SF Giants catcher breaks up minor league brawl
- SF Giants hitting prospects week in review (8/14-8/20)
- Reds DFA former SF Giants prospect Heath Hembree
- Former SF Giants pitcher Andrew Suarez earns KBO All-Star selection
It would take another 17 years before a San Francisco Giants parade would happen.
The most memorable game involving Beck was known as the “Brian Johnson Game”. But if it had been any other type of hit to win that game, it may have been called the “Shooter Game”.
In the same game that Johnson hit the historic home run to win the game, Beck had one of the guttiest innings in the history of the franchise. And I was in attendance to see it.
Beck was no longer considered the only closer as the Giants had acquired Danny Darwin, Wilson Alvarez, and closer Roberto Hernandez. Hernandez was pitching well down the stretch and Beck’s arm was majorly fatigued. Although he saved 37 games that year, the role was slowly moving to Hernandez.
In the 7th inning, with the Giants behind the Dodgers by one game in the standings, and up by two runs in the game, Hernandez gave up a two-run single to Mike Piazza to tie it up. Doug Henry held the fort down until Beck came on in the 10th.
Beck did what everybody was expecting (not), giving up a single on a one-ball two-strike count to Piazza. Then Karros and Mondesi followed with singles of their own. So, bases loaded, no outs, and Todd Zeile coming up.
Now Zeile wasn’t the quality hitter of the previous three, but had 31 home runs that year, and drove in 90, so he was a tough out. Especially with the bases juiced. He already had a run batted in earlier in the game.
Beck, with boos raining down, and Dusty Baker offering words of encouragement with a mound visit, tightened his focus.
He struck out Zeile with four pitches, with a surprise-me fastball right down the middle for strike three. One out.
Interestingly enough, the next spot in the lineup would have been former Giant Darren Lewis. He went 0-3 in the game, and was replaced when the Dodgers made a double-switch.
But as fate would have it, legendary slugger Eddie Murray strode to the plate to pinch hit. It was a situation similar to Kirk Gibson and Dennis Eckersley, and the Dodgers were hoping history would repeat itself.
Beck, on the very first pitch got Murray out on his front foot, and induced a soft grounder to the drawn in Jeff Kent. He threw home to get Piazza, and Johnson fired a throw to J.T. Snow at first to complete the inning-ending, season-saving double-play.
More from Around the Foghorn
- SF Giants place closer Jake McGee on IL, recall Jay Jackson
- Podcast: SF Giants drop pair against Padres, gear up for Atlanta
- SF Giants: Checking in on the Tony Watson trade
- San Francisco Giants fans need this Captain Brandon Belt shirt
- SF Giants: Brandon Belt’s surge has powered winning streak
He would then go on to pitch the 11th and the 12th innings, setting them down in order. He even faced Piazza and Karros one more time each, getting a groundout and flyout to finish the 12th, just prior to Johnson’s shot to left.
He got the win that day, and would win one more before the season ended. On fumes, he went on to pitch in just one game in the Division Series versus the Florida Marlins. He gave up a hit and had a strikeout in an inning and a third. And that was his final outing as a San Francisco Giant.
He would go on to pitch well for the Chicago Cubs the following year, saving a career-high 51 games. He then would have arm problems off and on and toiled in the minors. He famously lived in his mobile home parked behind the minor league park in Iowa.
He was named Comeback Player of the Year in the National League in 2003. He converted all 20 of his save chances and had a 1.78 ERA with the San Diego Padres. By August of the following season, as a 7th inning guy, he was released. And his career in the big leagues was over.
Beck passed away in 2007. Could have been drugs, alcohol, or any number of things that took hold of his life. But the memories that Rod Beck saved for the Giants faithful throughout his career, will still live on.
Thank you Rod Beck, and may you rest in peace.
Shooter, you were a Good Giant.