There are certain times in sports when magic occurs. There are also times when special athletes and people make it happen. Bob Welch made it happen in two cities.
Bob Welch played for 2 teams; the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland A’s. In both places he was successful and was much loved.
People forget what a great pitcher he was. In college he led a little known Eastern Michigan team all the way to the College World Series Finals. In one of the most magical moments in Dodger history, a 21 year old Welch gutted out a win in game 2 of the 1978 World Series. In an epic battle he struck out Reggie Jackson with two men on to end the game and preserve a 4-3 lead. Dodger stadium was never louder.
In Oakland he won 27 games in 1990 on the way to a 27-6 record and the Cy Young award. No pitcher since has won 25 games.
For many though, the greatest thing Bob did was not from his play, but from his heart. He ended his career at 211-146 in wins with almost 2,000 strikeouts. But most of all he taught people about life.
In 1991 he wrote a book called 5 O’clock Comes Early. It was a book about his struggles being an alcoholic. At a time when players were not very open about addiction, Welch was brutally honest. It touched a lot of people and if you go on book sites, even now people read it and thank him for it.
I met Bob Welch once in the Oakland A’s Parking lot after a game during the bash brother days. I wasn’t a kid that was into autographs but I just wanted to meet him. He was down to earth, nice and actually looked you in the eye. At that time the Oakland Coliseum was a great place to watch a game and big crowds were the norm. There was a magical feel between the players and the fans and Welch was a part of that.
It’s a funny thing about fans and players. We never forget what the players meant to us and how they touched us in their own little ways. Bob Welch was beloved in both Los Angeles and Oakland because when you come down to it, he was what all of us should strive to be. That even though we make mistakes and struggle through life, in the end we are judged by our hearts and how we inspire. Bob Welch succeeded with both.