The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Bob Welch: Rest in Peace

You may have heard the news this afternoon that former Dodgers and A’s pitcher Bob Welch has died of an apparent heart-attack at age 57.

Bob Welch was born in Detroit, Michigan on November 3, 1956.  He went to Hazel Park High School, and attended Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, MI.  He was the Dodgers first round pick in the 1977 amateur draft, the 20th pick overall.  He debuted for the Dodgers in 1978 at age 21, appearing in 23 games that season.  In 111 innings pitched, he posted a 7-4 record, and recorded a 2.02 ERA.

1981 Fleer Baseball Card

1981 Fleer Baseball Card (Photo credit: Jasperdo)

Welch pitched well for the Dodgers for ten seasons, from 1978 through 1987, inclusive.  He made the 1980 All-Star team, and pitched in both the 1978 and 1981 World Series’ against the Yankees.  As a Dodger, Welch posted a 115-86 record in 292 games with a 3.14 ERA.

When he was 31-years old, Welch became a member of the Oakland A’s (as part of a three-team trade) in 1988, just in time to join the Bash Brothers as they headed towards the World Series.  Welch pitched against his former Dodgers teammates in Game 3 of that Series, performing well but receiving a no-decision for his efforts.  The Dodgers ultimately won the Series in five games.

His career record for Oakland over seven seasons was 96-60, with a 3.94 ERA.  He made the 1990 All-Star team, and won the A.L. Cy Young award that season as well, posting an incredible 27-6 record in 35 starts.  No pitcher since then has won as many as 25 games.

Bob Welch retired after the 1994 season, posting a career win-loss record of 211-146 with a 3.47 ERA.  He won two World Series rings as a player, one with the Dodgers in 1981 and the other with the A’s in 1989.

He was also a pitching coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he won a third World Series ring in 2001.

Welch is survived by an eighteen-year old daughter, and two sons in their 20’s, as well as his former wife, Mary Ellen.

My condolences go out to his family.  It is truly sad that he passed away at such a young age.  May he rest in peace.

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14 thoughts on “Bob Welch: Rest in Peace

  1. Pingback: To Athletes, Who All Die Young | On Sports and Life

  2. A great appreciation Bill; and now comes the sad news about Tony Gwynn. Been a tough couple of weeks for baseball.


    • Hi Mike, Yeah, it’s been a hard couple of weeks for baseball lately. Zimmer, Welch and Gwynn, the last two being so young. I guess the hardest part is the reminder implicit of our own mortality. Hard news to bear.
      Take care,

  3. Wow, this is a huge loss for baseball. That Game 2 strikeout of Reggie in the ’78 Series (subsequently erased by Reggie turning the tables on Welch in Games 4 & 6) is one of the great “forgotten” WS moments. Plus, that 27-win season late in his career. And let us not forget, he had easiest pitching-coach gig ever: coaching Randy Johnson and that other fellow (the angry guy with the Krylon paint on his sock) on the 2001 World Champ Diamondbacks. The Mets happened to have Tommy Lasorda in the broadcast booth last night, & he got to reflect on what he remembered of Welch, which was a nice little moment. Hope Bud Selig remembers to insert some tribute to “Robert” during the All-Star Game next month!

    • Yes, his passing really did come as a big surprise to me, too. I guess I just remember him being so young all those years ago. Thanks for reminding us of the Reggie K in game 2. Great moment for us non-Yankee fans. And you’re right again, Selig needs to pay tribute to Welch during the All-Star game.
      Thanks again,

  4. the year after Reggie’s 3 homer World Series show, he got Welched.

  5. I had no idea about his “drinking days” – I just remember watching him pitch that magical 27 win season when I was a kid just learning to love baseball. He always struck me as one of those “borderline HOF” pitchers, too – he had a solid, steady career with a great winning pct. and decent ERA (won the Cy Young and was part of WS teams), though was never flashy or truly dominant, even when he won 27 games (many attributed that to the amazing offense).

    • Hi David, Yes, Welch did struggle with alcohol, but appeared to have settled into middle age with some peace of mind and self-control (if that’s the right way to put it. I’m certainly not going to judge the man.)
      He was a fine pitcher, and was fortunate to play on some excellent teams. I doubt we’ll ever see another 25-win season again, let alone a 27-win season.
      Thanks for reading, and for the comment,

  6. This news made me unexpectedly sad. I’d kinda forgotten about Bob Welch, but as a kid, he was my first experience (albeit vicariously) with the dangers of substance abuse. As a kid I was very judgmental about that. But now, looking back on the guy’s life, I think if we’re going to be looking at his abuse problems at all (which I notice you, very decently I think, are not), then I think it’s more important to look at his victories over them rather than his long-ago defeats.

    • Hi Smak, The norm in journalism at times like this is often to present the “complete” picture of the man, blemishes and all. I see no point in doing so. Let him rest in peace. The rest of us can work harder to deal with our own issues, if it’s so important to us in the first place.
      Good to hear from you,

  7. I went back through Five O’Clock Comes Early today. I think Welch was surprised he lived through his drinking years, much less into his 57th year. Still, it’s a shock to everyone who remembers his playing days.

    • Hi Arne, As I get older, the shock of other people dying who are around my age should probably come as less of a surprise, but it seldom does. He was only six years older than I am. He had a very live arm when he first started out, and so much potential. It’s really too bad. But at least he got to realize his dream of pitching in the Majors, which he did pretty darn well for 17 years.
      Thanks, Arne

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