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Feature Story on Joe Beckwith

February 25, 2005

Feature Story on Joe Beckwith By: Kimberly Shumack

By: Kimberly Shumack

Stepping on Hitchcock Field at Plainsman Park, Joe Beckwith glanced at home plate and realized that he had finally made it. Yet it would be another decade before his curve ball would ever cross that particular home plate for his Auburn Tigers. For the time being, Joe had to be content with serving as batboy for the Tigers and running out to the scoreboard to manually change the numbers between the innings.

Growing up in Opelika, Ala., as the son of Bill Beckwith, a long-time ticket manager for Auburn University, enabled Joe to see first hand the thrills of collegiate baseball, which spurred this Dixie Youth Baseball pitcher to dream of the big leagues. He would eventually make it there but not before some hardships.

Anne Beckwith lost her battle with lupus when Joe was eight years old leaving him and his older brother Bill Jr. without a mother.

“Her death really brought the father-son relationship together for the both of us,” Joe said.

After playing in all of the Dixie Youth Baseball leagues, Joe moved on to play baseball at Auburn High School, where he was the starting pitcher but also played catcher and first base some. The high school senior had some taste of success when the Tigers finished second in the state tournament, and he caught the eye of several college scouts including Georgia, Alabama and Auburn.

Then head coach Paul Nix convienced him to stay in Auburn, and in 1974 Joe enrolled and began taking management classes in addition to working on his game.

During his junior year, Joe lead his Tigers to a conference title and an apperance in the College World Series, once again catching the eyes of scouts. Although the Cleveland Indians drafted him in the 15th round, Joe decided to return for his senior season but not before playing in an amateur league in Alaska during the summer. In 1977, he helped the Tigers finish 28-18 earning All-SEC honors. On June 7, 1977, the Los Angeles Dodgers made this Dixie Youth baseball star’s dreams come true as they drafted him in the second round.

Joe enjoyed two successful stints with the Dodgers, which included being a member of the 1981 team that defeated the New York Yankees, 4-2 in the World Series. He was traded to the Kansas City Royals, where he pitched two scoreless innings in the 1985 World Series to help his Royals defeat St. Louis 4-3.

“I never dreamed that an Auburn boy, who played Dixie Youth, would play in the World Series,” he said. “It kind of takes you back to your youth when you are playing and learning the skills. Then to carry that on and reach the highest level is just tremedous.”

Joe returned to the Dodgers in 1986 to finish his seven-year career.

Following his professional career, Joe returned to Auburn, where he started his family – Merrill (23), Allie (20), Reynolds (17), Tyler (16) and Bailey (9) – and began working in corporative sales for Ready Mix Concrete, which he does to this day.

A member of the Auburn United Methodist Church, he is still involved with Dixie Youth Baseball. For several years, he has coached the 11 and 12-year old boys, and his 2004 team won the Alabama state tournament. Currently, he serves as the honary chairman for the Dixie Youth World Series. Joe also spoke before the selection committee, which eventually chose Auburn as the host for the 50th anniversary Dixie Youth World Series, and told of how Dixie Youth baseball has influenced his life.

“Auburn has always had a good Dixie Youth program, where I could learn the game and how to play it right. It set a foundation for my future.”