Right-hander Bob Welch, who famously struck out Reggie Jackson as a 21-year-old rookie in the 1978 World Series, won an astounding 27 games in his Cy Young season of 1990 and pitched 17 seasons in the majors, has died. He was 57 years old.
No cause has been reported with certainty as of Tuesday afternoon, but there has been an unconfirmed report of a heart attack. Welch was an alcoholic who chronicled his disease with co-writer George Vecsey in "Five O'clock Comes Early: A Young Man's Battle With Alcoholism." It was written in 1981.
Welch got into coaching after he retired in 1994 and, in recent seasons, he had been coaching with the A's, working with young pitchers particularly during spring training. A's beat reporter Susan Slusser, who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, describes Welch as being "instrumental" in the success of many of the team's pitchers.
Years earlier, Welch was a big-league pitching coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001 when they won the World Series.
A's vice president and general manager Billy Beane said in a statement:
"This is a sad day for the A's organization. Those of us who knew Bob as a teammate and a friend will miss him greatly."
The Dodgers, who drafted him 20th overall in 1977 and called him up as a rookie a year later, reported Welch's passing via Twitter:
Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 10, 2014
Welch's best full season came in '90 when he went 27-6 with a 2.95 ERA in 35 starts for the A's, and started for the American League in the All-Star game. No one has won more than 24 games since. Welch won the AL Cy Young Award despite a dominating season by Boston's Roger Clemens and a great season by Welch's teammate, Dave Stewart.
Nobody's career can be boiled down to one moment, but Welch sure started off with a bang in '78 when he faced the New York Yankees in the World Series with Mr. October at the plate and Game 2 on the line in the ninth inning. Their confrontation lasted seven minutes:
Reggie got him back, though, hitting a home run in Game 6.
In 1989, Welch was scheduled to start against the Giants in Game 3 of the World Series when an earthquake rocked the Bay Area. He never got a chance to pitch. Oakland skipper Tony La Russa decided to re-start his rotation with Dave Stewart after the Series returned from a hiatus, and the A's beat the Giants in a four-game sweep. With his house damaged from the quake, another surreal moment occurred: Welch said he won $21,000 playing the lottery the same week. It also was said, and written, that Welch was very helpful among those in San Francisco's Marina District who were less fortunate in the earthquake's wake.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that Welch is survived by sons Dylan (25) and Riley (23), daughter Kelly (18), and former wife Mary Ellen.
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