Generations Connect for Becks
During a recent trip to Cooperstown, emotions were high for Stacey Beck, widow of former major league pitcher Rod Beck. Having been to the Hall of Fame once before with Rod by her side, this latest trip held a new meaning for Stacey. When examining items relating to Rod’s career, memories of her previous life as the wife of a big league player were brought to the forefront.
“The highlights [of the Hall of Fame] were personal, mostly,” said Stacey. “Seeing the photos and articles of Rod, seeing the ball from the Cubs/Giants playoff game, it all was a reminder of wonderful times for our family.”
Having made this trip to the Hall with daughter Kayla and mother Francine Kurtz, Stacey’s visit was meaningful for another reason – she was able to share the experience with her daughter. Watching Kayla put into context the place of her father’s career within the larger history of baseball was very special.
“This was an opportunity for [Kayla] to connect to her dad’s experiences; recognizing that he was a link in the baseball history chain was an awesome experience.”
And what a link in the chain Rod Beck was.
To his opponents, Beck, (1968-2007), was downright intimidating. Leaning in to glare at batters with an intense stare, his long hair blowing in the wind as his pitching arm swung like a pendulum by his side, Beck was the visual definition of a closer’s closer – a game finisher if there ever was one. Although his fastball rarely topped 88 mph, Beck made up for a lack of velocity with pitch placement and an intense competitiveness that made the nickname of “The Shooter” seem more fitting than the radar gun would suggest.
Indeed, Beck’s passion for the adrenalin rush that came with stifling opposing teams’ late inning hopes propelled him through 13 seasons in the major leagues and earned him 286 saves for the Giants, Cubs, Red Sox and Padres. More importantly, it earned him the respect of players, coaches and fans in every city where he played. His blue-collar attitude and friendly gruffness generated a dual-personality befitting his profession – frightening on the baseball diamond but approachable and earnest off the field. Said Padres teammate Trevor Hoffman, “It was hard to get through that exterior of what he looked like, but it took about 1 ½ minutes to realize that’s all it was. He was a teddy bear.”
Yet Beck was more than a fierce baseball player or a teddy bear. He was also an activist.
It all began in the early nineties, when the San Francisco Giants, Beck’s first team, made a call for their players to become involved with a charitable cause. Having just seen “The Ryan White Story” on TV with wife Stacey, the choice was plain for Rod Beck. Believing that “No kid should have to be ashamed to be sick,” Beck immediately threw himself into his chosen cause, not only raising funds, but taking the more personal approach of regularly visiting kids with HIV. “He stepped up and gave a face to those with AIDS,” Stacey said during her eulogy at Rod’s funeral. “He hugged and kissed children others were afraid to touch.”
Beck’s involvement did not stop there however, as he even went so far as convincing the Giants to host a pre-game AIDS awareness event. Held for the first time in 1994, “Until There’s a Cure Day” was the first AIDS awareness event ever hosted by a professional sports team. Since that first event, “Until There’s a Cure Day” has since been held annually in San Francisco and has produced more than $1.3 million for Bay area HIV/AIDS prevention education and health services.
Since Rod’s untimely passing in 2007 at the age of 38, Stacey has carried on Rod’s passion for charity work alongside Kayla and younger daughter Kelsey.
More than five years after his death, Rod Beck’s legacy lives on.
Kimberly McCray is the 2012 library-recorded media intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development