Today marks the 10th anniversary of a tragic event in baseball: a death. It was one of the worst kinds of deaths, one that happened to someone very young.
In an early spring training workout on Feb. 17, 2003, Steve Bechler, a 23-year-old pitching prospect with the Baltimore Orioles, shockingly died. The investigation into his death led the government to ban ephedra, a dietary product Bechler had been taking.
Bechler was a big man at 6-foot-2 and well over 200 pounds. Though Baseball-Reference lists him at 205 pounds, he was considerably heavier than that at the time of his death. Wikipedia lists him at north of 300 pounds when he died. Entering camp needing to lose weight, Bechler did several things that ultimately led to his untimely demise.
He apparently hadn’t eaten much in the previous few days to shed some pounds. He worked out very hard, as well. And against the advise of his trainer, he took some ephedra. A worst-case scenario then played out.
Though it was just February, it was a Florida February, and thus was warm and muggy. Bechler wasn’t from the region and wasn’t used to that weather—certainly not at that time of the year.
He pushed himself too hard in those early workouts, and his body temperature started to rise. The chemicals running through him began going goofy. Belcher collapsed. When doctors got to him, he had a body temperature of 108 degrees. His blood was cooking his innards, and multiple organs failed. He died that day.
Who knows what his career might’ve been if he hadn’t died? He made the majors for a cup of coffee in 2002 but hadn’t had much success. But he was young, and it was just a cup of coffee.
However, baseball is just a game, and this was death. The real tragedy wasn’t a lost career, it was a life ended young. Bechler was young, married, and his wife was expecting when he died. That’s the tragedy.
In response to Bechler’s death and other, similar concerns, the government banned dietary substances with ephedra. But Bechler was gone, and he departed 10 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the best ones in bold if you’d rather skim.
4,000 days since the Expos sign free agent Andres Galarraga. It’s a return to the town where he became a star.
5,000 days since the Brewers retire No. 4 for Paul Molitor.
5,000 days since Randy Wolf makes his big league debut.
5,000 days since Miguel Tejada hits three homers in one game.
6,000 days since the city of Houston and Harris County agree to terms to build a $265 million retractable-roofed stadium for the Astros.
8,000 days since the Dodgers sign free agent pitcher John Candelaria.
10,000 days since Orel Hershiser posts his 11th straight win. In 16 starts, he’s 11-0 with 79 hits, 73 strikeouts, and 34 walks allowed in 118.2 innings, posting a 1.38 ERA.
20,000 days since the big league debut of pitcher Stan Williams.
1861 Stump Wiedman, a pitcher hamstrung by terrible run support, is born.
1883 National League president A. G. Mills calls for a “harmony conference” with the American Association.
1883 Steve Evans is born. He’ll lead the Federal League in triples in 1914 and in doubles the next season.
1892 Nemo Leibold, “Clean Sox” outfielder on the 1919 White Sox who went 1-for-16 in that year’s World Series, is born.
1905 Ed Brandt is born. He’ll go 121-146 in his career, including a league-leading 21 losses as a rookie. His run support sucked.
1908 Red Barber, longtime baseball broadcaster, is born.
1909 The NL creates some new rules. They say that all relief pitchers must retire at least one batter before exiting the game. Also, they deprive its umpires of the power to issue fines.
1909 Cleveland acquires a 41-year-old Cy Young.
1912 Boston trades former star Mike Donlin to the Pirates.
1912 Washington trades catcher Gabby Street to the Yankees.
1915 Jersey Bakely, a 19th-century pitcher who was hurt by lousy run support, dies at age 50. He went 76-125, including two different 30-loss seasons.
1924 Frank Chance, earlier named new White Sox manager during this offseason, has to resign due to ill health.
1930 Roger Craig, pitcher and manager, is born.
1936 Tom York, star ballplayer from the 1870s, dies at age 85.
1937 The Yankees purchase Babe Dahlgren from the Red Sox.
1950 The Indians release Satchel Paige.
1956 Kip Selbach, former player, dies at age 83. He led the league in triples in 1895 with 22.
1961 Doc Johnston, Indians first baseman from the 1910s and 20s, dies at age 73.
1963 Former minor leaguer Michael Jordan is born.
1976 Pepperdine University star pitcher Mike Scott tosses a perfect game against California Lutheran University.
1980 While taping separate interviews for KNBC-TV in Burbank, California, Giants coach Jim Lefebvre and Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda get into a fistfight. Lefebvre is a former Dodgers coach, and clearly there are hard feelings from that time period.
1982 Hall of Fame umpire Nestor Chylack dies at age 59.
1984 Houston signs free agent J.R. Richard. It’s an attempted comeback from the former ace hurler, but it won’t pan out.
1986 Hall of Fame starting pitcher Red Ruffing dies at age 80.
1989 Lefty Gomez, Hall of Fame pitcher (who is also the former longtime teammate of Red Ruffing) dies, also at age 80.
1990 The Yankees sign amateur free agent Mariano Rivera.
1993 The owners decide that revenue sharing and a salary cap will be linked in the upcoming round of negotiations with the Players Association.
1995 Tigers manager Sparky Anderson says he will not use replacement players during the strike and is put on involuntary leave of absence by the Tigers as a result.
1999 The A’s sign free agent John Jaha. It’s the first wave of Beane-ball in which they get high-OBP sluggers who can’t field worth a lick.
2008 The Rockies sign free agent outfielder Scott Podsednik.
2011 SABR announces the Henry Chadwick Award winners, including Baseball-Reference.com founder Sean Forman.