Red Sox have fond memories of Beck

Red Sox have fond memories of Beck

SAN DIEGO -- Former Major League closer Rod Beck, who died on Saturday at the age of 38, made a lasting impression on some teammates that he shared a clubhouse with for parts of three seasons in Boston.

Beck, who enjoyed the bulk of his success in the Major Leagues as a three-time All-Star with the San Francisco Giants, pitched 114 games while wearing a Red Sox uniform.

"He loved the game," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "He loved competing. Was there early, was there late. Was great at what he did. He was a good person to be around."

The cause of Beck's death was not immediately known.

It was in memorable fashion that Beck began his tenure with the Red Sox. Acquired from the Cubs on Aug. 31, 1999, Beck literally arrived in the middle innings of a Red Sox-Royals game the next night.

Jimy Williams, the Boston manager at the time, called on Beck to save the game in the ninth inning. Beck did just that.

Varitek went out to the mound before Beck threw his warm-up pitches, and literally met him at that very moment.

"My eyes were this big," said Varitek as he spread out his hands. "I was like, 'I have to catch Rod Beck right now.'

Varitek, Doug Mirabelli, Manny Ramirez and Tim Wakefield are the four players who remain from Beck's time in Boston. Of those four, it was Wakefield who had the closest relationship with Beck.

"I was absolutely floored when I heard the news today," said Wakefield. "I've had a hard time dealing with it all day."

Wakefield recalled his last conversation with Beck.

"Out of the blue, last year, as soon as the season was over, he called, and I talked to him for a little bit," Wakefield said. "We were busy, and I tried to talk to him for maybe 30 seconds. I was busy doing something, and I said I'd call him back. I tried to call him back. I never heard from him again."

But Wakefield has plenty of positive remembrances of his friend.

What kind of teammate was Beck?

"Phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal," Wakefield said. "He was one of my closest friends on the team the time he was here. We used to talk about the game and how to approach it and used to help each other. When things were going bad for him, I would always try and be there, and when things were going bad for me, he would always try to help me. Those years were difficult times for us around here."

Even in down moments, such as when Beck surrendered a game-winning walk-off homer to Bernie Williams at Yankee Stadium in the 10th inning of Game 1 of the 1999 American League Championship Series, the right-hander earned respect for the way he handled things.

"I felt he dealt with that outwardly and inwardly good," Wakefield said. "Shooter, he was a true professional. He saved so many games for the [Giants and] Cubs. He succeeded and failed a lot and knew how to handle situations like that."

"He was such a great teammate, a great guy," Varitek said. "I'm just a little lost for words."

This is the second time the Red Sox have dealt with the loss of a former teammate this season. Josh Hancock, who pitched for the Red Sox in 2002, died in an automobile accident in April.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.