On the heels of an unlikely series victory against the struggling New York Yankees (hey, we'll take it), San Francisco Giants fans got unwanted news that beloved former closer Rod Beck died in his Phoenix home at age 38. Beck made Giants history, and made personal history for me, with a 10th inning victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers Sept. 18, 1997. It happened to be my birthday, my two best friends and I pulled my daughter out of school for the day, and boy, did they make sure it was worth missing school: It was one of the best baseball games I've ever seen, and it sent the Giants to the National League West championship that year.
Beck was also a brave advocate for forgotten members of the Giants team -- the front and back office staffers who don't have the same bargaining power a Barry Bonds or even a Rod Beck did. He did a kindness for a friend of mine I'll always remember. Everyone knew the toll his big appetites took on his body, but I'll always remember him as the mullet- and Fu Manchu-wearing heart of those great Dusty Baker teams of 1993 and 1997. Thanks, Shooter. Henry Schulman's obit is here and Scott Ostler's appreciation is here.