Baseball / Sports

Former Cy Young winner Bob Welch dead at 57

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Bob Welch, who won the 1990 Cy Young Award while helping pitch the Oakland A's to the World Series, has died. He was 57.

Welch, who broke in with the Los Angeles Dodgers, went 27-6 during his Cy Young season with Oakland. In a statement released Tuesday by the Dodgers, the N.L. club said the cause of death was a heart attack. He died Monday night.

"It's a terrible shame," said New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, who acquired Welch for the A's after the 1987 season. "He was a big part of our success in the late 1980s and 1990s and a terrific person to be around. It's a tragedy to see someone like that pass so early in life.

"He was so positive and fun-loving and a very talented baseball player."

The trade for Welch was part of a three-team, eight-player deal also involving the Dodgers and Mets. The A's got Welch and left-hander Matt Young from the Dodgers. They sent reliever Jay Howell and shortstop Alfredo Griffin to L.A., and pitchers Kevin Tapani and Wally Whitehurst to New York. The Dodgers and Mets exchanged two other players.

Welch, who went 61-23 in his first three years after leaving the Dodgers for the A's, last pitched in 1994. He'd spent some time as the pitching coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but in recent years was working for the A's as a minor league instructor. He was with the A's in spring training in Phoenix.

The A's had hoped to see Welch later this summer at a Coliseum reunion of the 1989 World Series championship team. Welch won 17 games that season.

"He will be there is spirit," four-time 20-game winner Dave Stewart said.

"Maybe we can make it about Bobby," said former A's closer and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley.

Stewart and Welch came up together in the Dodgers system, and both reached their peak with the A's. They were workout partners, they ran together, they even owned twin cardio workout machines they used year-around.

"I've just lost one of the best guys I've ever been around in my life," Stewart said. "I talked to him two weeks ago. From what I heard, everything was all good. That was common for Bobby. He always sounded great.

"We were teammates through the minor leagues, then the big leagues, first with the Dodgers, then moving on to Oakland. Bobby was always trying to teach me how to play golf. Every time I tried to give it up, he said, you've got to keep playing. That was Bobby, a glass-half-full guy. I never heard him say a negative word about anyone."

Eckersley, who saved many of those 27 wins that Welch had in 1990, said, "I am totally moved; I didn't realize how affected I'd be. He was an incredible guy and we had a special connection. So now there's so much sadness. He touched me and I'm touched now. I loved the guy. He was one hell of a guy. Bobby connected with everybody.

"You hear people talk about guys being good teammates. Bobby was. He was a top-step guy. He had major energy."

"It's a sad thing," Dave Duncan, the pitching coach in Oakland during Welch's time there. "Bob was a tremendous guy, a tremendous teammate, a tremendous friend. He would do anything for you."

"This is a sad day for the entire A's organization," A's general manager Billy Beane said in a statement. Beane was a teammate of Welch's in 1989. "Those of us who knew Bob as a teammate and a friend will miss him greatly. My condolences go out to his family."

Welch broke in with the Dodgers in 1978 and first garnered national acclaim by striking out Reggie Jackson with two on and two out in the top of the ninth inning of Game 2 of the 1978 World Series when Welch was just 21.

"That was a seminal moment, against Reggie," Stewart said. "When it came to the game of baseball, he would come at you with everything he had."

After a prolonged battle with alcohol Welch wrote a book, Five O'Clock Comes Early, in which he was frank about his drinking and his efforts to quit.

"He had some demons," Duncan said, "but whenever his name was brought up in recent times, all indications were that he was dealing with his problems in a positive way."

Many of the current crop of A's pitchers worked with Welch in the A's minor league system.

Closer Sean Doolittle said in a tweet he was "devastated to learn of Bob Welch's passing. The A's organization lost not only one of its best pitchers, but one of its best people."

Disabled starter A.J. Griffin tweeted he was "so sad to hear about the passing of Bob Welch. A great man who always loved to talk baseball. It is a blessing to have known him."

Contra Costa Times staff writer Mike Lefkow contributed to this report.

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