Don Bessent was not the best known of the 1955-59 Brooklyn Dodgers. A spear carrier among the Boys of Summer, he and Clem Labine and Ed Roebuck made up one of the league's best bullpens.
He died Saturday in a parking lot in Jacksonville, Fla., while employees of a fast-food restaurant watched. He was 59.
The Jacksonville Medical Examiner's office blamed alcohol poisoning, aggravated by cirrhosis of the liver. Bessent's blood alcohol level was 0.35.
Employees of Wendy's restaurant first noticed Bessent slumped in his car in late afternoon. He told them he was okay when they offered assistance, but later he asked for help.
The employees told police that assistant manager Cesar Taracena threatened to fire them if they called for help.
Two employees did approach an off-duty policeman, who called paramedics, said Sgt. Steve Weintrab of the Jacksonville police. The paramedics declared Bessent dead when they arrived.
Taracena, fired Tuesday, refused to talk to reporters.
Although overshadowed by such teammates as Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Duke Snider, Bessent made his mark -- first as a starter, then as a reliever.
He was best remembered for pitching against the New York Yankees in five World Series games in 1955 and '56. He was 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in 13 1/3 innings.
After graduating from Jacksonville Lee High School in 1949 he signed with the New York Yankees. He pitched for their farm club in Norfolk, but was left unprotected and drafted by the Dodgers in 1953. They called him up from their farm club in St. Paul, Minn., in 1955, at the same time as Roger Craig, now manager of the San Francisco Giants.
The Dodgers, mired in a mid-summer slump after a 25-4 start, need help. Bessent and Craig provided it, pitching complete-game victories in a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Bessent finished 1955 with an 8-1 record and a 2.70 ERA. In 1956, he was 4-3 with a 2.50 ERA and had nine saves. He was only 1-3 with a 5.73 ERA in 1957, then was 1-0 with a 3.33 ERA in 1958, the Dodgers' first season in Los Angeles.
"Don Bessent won my 27th game for me in 1956," said Don Newcombe, one of the Dodger starters. "That save always reminded me Bessent was involved in helping me win the Cy Young."
Teammates have fond memories of "the Weasel," as they nicknamed him.
"He was quiet in his own way, but he would go to war for you," Don Drysdale said. "They always talk about Dodger starters, but I'm the first one to say, hey, let's talk about our bullpen, too. Don was part of those early great bullpens."
Newcombe recounted the time the Dodgers were barnstorming in Japan in 1956 when he and Roy Campanella, both blacks, were barred from some establishments. Bessent refused to join opted to stay with Newcombe and Campanella.
Drysdale recalled the frustration of having the Yankees read Bessent's pitches, which encompassed a fastball and curve. He said every time Bessent was about to throw a curve, they would hear a whistle from the Yankee dugout.
"We couldn't figure out why," Drysdale said. "Later, we learned that every time Bessent threw a curve, he stuck his tongue out."
Bessent developed arm trouble in 1959 and quit baseball in 1962 after four seasons in the minors.