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SAN FRANCISCO -- It's still easy to envision Rod Beck's messy mullet, his Fu Manchu mustache and the nastiest sight of all -- his split-fingered fastball.

It's far too difficult to picture Beck, the Giants' charismatic closer in the 1990s, being found dead in his Phoenix home Sunday at the age of 38.

"It's just a real tragedy," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who coached Beck on the San Diego Padres when "Shooter" finished his 13-year career in 2004. "It's hit hard. It's so sad. It's a sad day for all of us."

Beck certainly didn't close out his life with the fanfare we came to know and love during his Giants heyday. What a shame. A tragic shame.

Too bad the Giants couldn't award him a save posthumously following Sunday's 7-2 win over the New York Yankees.

They will honor him tonight when the Padres come to town. A moment of silence just doesn't seem fitting, though, for a guy who brought the house down in raucous fashion after so many saves.

A three-time All-Star during his seven seasons with the Giants (1991-97), he set a franchise record with 48 saves in 1993, and 199 of his 286 career saves came in a Giants uniform.

It's a legacy that would have been relived with old-timer's games or memory-stirring reunions like Sunday's for the Giants' and New York Yankees' 1962 World Series teams.

Beck surely won't be forgotten around here, where the Giants gave him his start after trading for him from the A's, who drafted him in the 13th round in 1986.

He had the nerve all closers need.


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He had the rotund belly that beer-drinking fans could appreciate. He had the likable persona that seems so rare in baseball nowadays.

"He was just a regular person. He was almost like, I don't want to say a civilian in the clubhouse, but he wasn't at all like a baseball player," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. "He loved cowboy boots, he loved kids, he loved country music, he loved to smoke cigarettes. He was an offbeat personality.

"But he respected the game, he loved the game and, again, he loved the Giants. His stay here certainly set the tone for a lot of what we were able to do."

In Beck's final season with the Giants, he fittingly was on the mound when they clinched the National League West in 1997.

Now, 10 years after that feat, he's dead.

He's left behind a wife, two daughters and a legion of fans.

"Rod Beck was a true Giant in every sense of the word, from his dedication on the field to his selflessness away from the park," Giants president and managing partner Peter Magowan said in a statement.

Beck left for the Chicago Cubs in 1998 and promptly gave them 51 saves. He moved on in 1999 to the Boston Red Sox, rebounded from Tommy John elbow surgery and landed in 2003 with the San Diego Padres, where he bailed out Bochy's club with 20 saves while closer Trevor Hoffman was on the shelf.

"It's tough. He was a great guy," said Giants first baseman Ryan Klesko, who played with Beck in San Diego. "He was always happy and picking guys' (spirits) up. I know there've been some tough times the last couple years, and obviously we haven't heard exactly what happened, but what a great guy and a great ballplayer."

Preliminary reports say foul play isn't suspected, so you're probably not alone if you fear Beck's demise didn't stem from natural causes. His final major-league season, in 2004, was delayed as he reportedly went through drug rehabilitation.

"It's so sad when you see healthy players go at such a young age," said Bochy, noting how another of his ex-players, Ken Caminiti, "had trouble fighting demons" before passing away in 2004.

"That's what makes it even sadder. Even though you do all you can to help athletes, they can't beat it," Bochy added. "I don't know what happened with Rod. But it's tough to take."

Beck's passion for the game was contagious not only to his teammates, but to fans who cheered for them. He set such a love-of-the-game standard, one that stood in stark contrast to the nonchalance shown by ex-Giants closer Armando Benitez when things went awry here the past couple years.

Among Beck's better moments, one stands out: Sept. 18, 1997, against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Candlestick. He allowed singles to the first three batters in the 10th inning, then retired the next eight he faced, setting the stage for Brian Johnson's game-winning homer for the Giants.

"It was pretty amazing," Sabean recalled. "Dusty (Baker, then-Giants manager) visited the mound, and he always had a saying, 'Think lucky.' (Beck) was more than lucky. He was a good pitcher. A real good pitcher and a good person."

And a closer who deserved a better finish.

Contact Cam Inman at cinman@cctimes.com.