I first became a fan, I mean a Big Fan, of Bob Welch during Game 2 of the 1978 World Series between the Dodgers and those damn Yankees.
The Yankees beat the Dodgers that year, but that series gave me one of my greatest Dodger memories - one that I see clearly in my mind as though it happened yesterday - courtesy of an epic battle between a 21 year-old rookie pitcher and a legendary home run hitter named Mr. October.
However, my personal connection to Welch extends well beyond baseball. He fought battles in his life far larger than those on the diamond. Although Welch had a great career pitching for the Dodgers and the Oakland A's, winning a Cy Young Award and 211 games, he may have been able to get those 300 wins and secure his very own plaque in Cooperstown, if not for his struggles with alcoholism.
Many today are going to remember Welch as an Oakland A, but I will forever remember him as A Dodger and for that nail-biting World Series matchup against Reggie Jackson.
The Dodgers were ahead by one run entering the ninth at Dodger Stadium. Tommy Lasorda called upon the rookie, Welch, to save the game.
Fast forward: One out and Yankees runners on first and second. Welch got Yankees's legend Thurmon Munson to pop up for the second out, and then up to the plate - yet another legend - the World Series cheater, Mr. October, the straw that stirs the drink, the Dodger killer, Reggie frickin' Jackson.
Every Dodger fan in the stadium and watching at home (as I was) was sweating bullets and absolutely on the edge of their seat, knowing what Reggie can do with just one mighty swing.
One threw with all his might while the other swung with all of his. Welch let it all go, pitching nothing but fastballs. Jackson let it all go, swinging every time at nothing less than the fences. You knew it was going to be epic right from the way the first pitch played out.
It was the kind of situation every young pitcher goes to bed and dreams of:
World Series, game on the line, 9th inning, their biggest hitter at the plate, and it's all up to me. That one came true for Welch. Let's take a look at it one more time...
Farewell Bobby, you'll always be number 35 (and number 1) to me.