To McKeon, Beckett a standout competitor
Retiring righty hurled himself into World Series lore with former Marlins skipper
MIAMI -- In their history, Marlins pitchers have combined to throw 141 complete games in the regular season, and four more in the postseason. None are more memorable than Josh Beckett's World Series-clinching gem at Yankee Stadium in 2003.
At 23, the hard-throwing right-hander cemented his legacy in Marlins history, and became the face of the franchise's second championship team. "There is no question about it, he was the key," said Jack McKeon, who managed the '03 club.
Now 34 and dealing with a torn labrum in his left hip, Beckett announced his retirement after the Dodgers were eliminated by the Cardinals on Tuesday night in the National League Division Series.
McKeon, a Marlins special assistant, has always heaped praise on Beckett. Both are bonded together in Miami postseason lore because McKeon rolled the dice and went with Beckett on short rest in Game 6 of the World Series.
The Marlins prevailed, 2-0, shocking the baseball world.
It was no small task, taking on the high-powered Yankees in the Bronx. But with a chance to clinch, Beckett went the distance, tossing a five-hit shutout, while striking out nine.
Fittingly, the series ended with the ball in Beckett's hands. On his 107th and last pitch, Jorge Posada tapped a slow roller that Beckett gloved and applied the tag for the final out.
"He was a competitor," McKeon said. "If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have been there. He was a tough cookie. No complaints out of him. He just went about his work. He was like a 'Dead End Kid.' He wanted the ball. 'Give me the ball.' He wasn't afraid of anybody."
Picked second overall by the Marlins in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, Beckett made his MLB debut in 2001. His career in Miami was mired by blister problems. From 2002-05, the Spring, Texas, native went to the disabled list five times due to blisters on his right middle finger. He also had a DL stint for a "skin tear" to the same finger.
In five seasons with the Marlins, Beckett was 41-34 with a 3.46 ERA.
"Josh [is] a special talent but also a special man," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said in a statement. "We celebrated many exciting moments together both on and off the field. His zest for life will serve him well moving forward, and I'm proud to call him a friend."
Beckett's heroics in 2003 helped re-energize the franchise, and the championship season played a factor in the organization eventually securing their new stadium, Marlins Park, which opened in 2012.
"Josh Beckett will always hold a special place in Marlins history," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "From being the team's first-round pick in 1999, to winning the World Series MVP after his complete-game shutout at Yankee Stadium to clinch the World Series in 2003, he has meant a lot to this organization. We congratulate him on a great career and we wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors."
In November 2005, Beckett and Mike Lowell were traded to the Red Sox as part of a package that brought Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez to South Florida.
With Boston, Beckett won his second World Series in 2007, and in 2012, he was dealt to the Dodgers.
Beckett faced the Marlins' twice in 2014, picking up a win and a loss. He finished his season at 6-6 with a 2.88 ERA. The highlight of his season was no-hitting the Phillies on May 25.
To McKeon, no Beckett start is more memorable than beating the Yankees in '03.
"When Beckett was pitching that sixth game of the World Series, he wasn't coming out until they tied the game," McKeon said. "If they tied the game, he might have been coming out of there. But I was going with my horse."