Bob Welch, the 1990 American League Cy Young Award winner and two-time All-Star who earned World Series rings with the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers, died Monday at the age of 57.
A press release from the Dodgers said the cause was a heart attack. Welch had worked as a special assistant for the A’s at their Arizona training facilities earlier this year.
In 1990, Welch won 27 games for the A’s and lost just six, the last major leaguer to win at least 25 games in a season. That feat was enough to win him the 1990 American League Cy Young Award (Boston’s Roger Clemens finished second and Welch’s Oakland teammate Dave Stewart, who was 22-11, finished third).
Welch was a major part of the A’s team that won World Series in 1989, but he never actually pitched in that four-game sweep of the Giants. As the A’s No. 3 starter, Welch was getting ready to start Game 3 at Candlestick Park when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit. The quake delayed the Series for 10 days, which gave the A’s and their opponents, the San Francisco Giants, more pitching options when it resumed.
“And the A’s came back with Dave Stewart and Mike Moore, the No. 1 and No. 2 starters,” said sports journalist Rick Tittle, “while the Giants went to their No. 3 and No. 4 starters. And interestingly enough, the A’s fourth starter, Storm Davis, was the guy who complained that he wasn’t going to get a start. Bob Welch said, ‘I want a ring, and if I was (A’s manager) Tony LaRussa, I’d pitch Stewart and Moore, too — they’re better than me.’ He was the ultimate teammate, and a great competitor, too.”
Tittle, who hosts pre- and postgame radio for the A’s, added, “We always point out, every spring training, that Bob Welch had the worst spring training ever in 1990, and went on to win 27 games, the Cy Young Award, and have an All-Star season. But it’s also a tale of two careers for him. He was a fantastic young talent for the Dodgers, as a rookie, famously striking out Reggie Jackson in the 1978 World Series. Then he had struggles with alcohol abuse, fought through those, wrote a book about it — “Five O’Clock Comes Early” — and then had a renaissance to his career in the American League with the A’s.”
Kimberly Contreras wrote about Welch’s work with young pitchers earlier this year for Scout.com: Welch Molding the A’s Next Generation
And Brad Mangin shared some of his photographs and memories of seeing a 21-year-old Welch pitch for the Dodgers against the Giants at Candlestick Park in 1978: Bob Welch Dies at 57