Toor: Learning to pitch: Remembering a summer with Bob Welch

From Rachel Toor at SB Nation on October 20, 2014, on the late SABR member Bob Welch:

We met in the Clark Fork. That’s the Clark Fork of the Columbia River. I had gone back to school for a graduate degree, was training hard for a 50-mile trail race, and was wearing only tiny shorts and a running bra. I’d just finished a long run and had gone down to the river to soak my middle-aged legs in the rush and gurgle of nippy water. I kicked off my running shoes and picked my way gingerly through the rocks that lined the shore, yelping at the cold, my arms helicoptering to keep from falling. The air was hot, the sun soaked my skin, and soon enough my legs were comfortably numb. A trio of fisherman stood in the water up river. This is not unusual, even in the middle of town. Missoula, Montana is a town where people do things like run 50-mile races and stand in rivers in deep summer.

Next thing, one of the fisherman, a white guy and older than the other two, had moved downstream. I heard him call out to the young fellows: “No question about it, this is the best view you’ll get fishing anywhere.”

“Why, Bob?”

Laughter. No answer.

His view was of the traffic going over the bridge, the hotel behind him, and, well, me.

One of the young pups bounded over and started barking out questions: Are you a runner? Do you live here?

I was, I did. He was a baseball player, as was the other kid (there just aren’t that many black people in Montana; I had already guessed they weren’t local). They played for the Ogden Raptors, and were visiting for a three-night series against the Missoula Osprey. This was the lowest rung of minor league baseball. Rookie league.

“Who’s the old dude?” I asked, gesturing to the man who had gone downstream.

“He’s our coach. He’s a legend.”

I looked at him. Tall, rangy, bald.

“What’s his name?”

“Bob Welch. Played for the Dodgers and the A’s.”

“Never heard of him.”

“He won the Cy Young Award,” the young pup whispered, suddenly shy.


I’d heard of that.

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Originally published: October 20, 2014. Last Updated: October 20, 2014.