66 years, 3 months, 26 days …Thomas Joseph Beckwith, “Joe” as we know him … The Good Lord loaned him to his family, friends, communities, and this world. While his recent passing leaves his loved ones and friends grieving, we can take great solace in knowing him and the countless blessings he bestowed on everyone, wherever his life and travels took him.
I first met Joe early in the 1975 AU Tigers college baseball season at Plainsman Park, my first since moving to Auburn that winter. This was Joe’s second year playing for the Auburn Tigers baseball team, with Paul Nix as his head coach. It was readily apparent to me that Joe Beckwith was a special pitching talent … even that early in his college career. I met him as the fan of baseball that I’ve always been — not in any official capacity— I was just a fan.
What stood out to me was how genuinely nice, approachable, how unassuming Joe was, and he was that way every time I said, “Hello!” or “Good Luck!” For his last three seasons with AU Baseball (1975-77), Joe was an exceptional RHP — it was apparent then, and is still reflected in his many pitching efforts and accomplishments that remain to this day in the record books of Auburn Baseball.
Following his college career, Joe earned the chance to play at the highest level, Major League Baseball, with both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Kansas City Royals. In his professional playing journey, Joe was an instrumental pitching teammate of two World Series Championship teams: the Dodgers in 1981 and Royals in 1985.
To this day, Joe is the only player from Auburn High School that has played in the big leagues, much less has experienced the seasonal and post-season MLB successes.
But, to meet and talk with Joe, one would never know that — he was a least likely person to mention these accolades. Joe Beckwith was one modest, soft-spoken (almost taciturn), gentle person who genuinely let the person know he was talking with that they were important.
On several occasions, I would ask Joe to come talk with my local age-group youth baseball teams and participants in our baseball schools. He always accepted and took the time to literally get down to the levels of the kids (ages 5-12). At my asking, Joe would bring one of his World Series championship rings, not to brag in any way, but to let these young impressionable boys and girls know that they can achieve anything they want to, if they work hard at it.
Joe always wanted kids to know that he was just like them when he was that age … if he did it, they could, too! Joe’s main messages always included having fun, practicing on your own, being a good teammate, and respecting the games of baseball and softball — there were girls and boys he spoke with.
The Memorial Service for Beckwith at Auburn United Methodist Church highlighted many of his characteristics, habits, and life experiences. His family surely felt the pride and love on ready display by the speakers and ministers for the life he lived — the family man and father, husband, baseball player, businessman, and citizen exemplified by how Joe lived his life.
Youngest daughter, Bailey, spoke for her family, and touched hearts in a way only a child could on reflecting on the life and loss of their dad. Surely, her mother, Lee (wife of Joe 29 years), and her siblings Allie, Reynolds, Merrill, and Tyler, and their spouses, appreciated the stories and kindness expressed by Bailey’s words of remembrance.
AUMC Pastor, Dr. Cory Smith, along with Johnny Porch, Bill Ham, and Dr. Tim Thompson also offered fond memories, stories and tidbits of Joe’s life.
The Rev. Chris Kelsey and Chris Nemec offered soothing music renditions throughout. Fitting for Joe, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!” accompanied the service wrap up.
To say that Joe Beckwith left each person, each situation, each place and this world in better shape than he found them is an understatement. He was such a good guy, and kind and giving to the core. He will be missed sorely here in The Loveliest Village on The Plains. While Joe may not now be by us, he will always be with us — a fond memory in our minds and a warm feeling in our hearts.
May Joe RIP for all time.