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  • Among the countless victims of alcohol abuse was Don Bessent, a talented Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who died under tragic circumstances in 1990.

    How Don Bessent Died

    Twenty-eight years after leaving Baseball, at age 59, Bessent was living in Jacksonville Florida and suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, a late-stage form of liver disease often caused by chronic alcohol abuse.

    Employees of a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant noticed Bessent slumped in his car in the parking lot. When questioned, Bessent claimed that he was OK, but reportedly later asked them for help. However, the store’s assistant manager threatened to fire the staff members if they got involved.

    Disobeying their manager, staffers alerted an off-duty police officer who summoned paramedics, though it was too late by the time they arrived.

    Bessent died sometime before 5:30 pm on July 7, 1990. His cause of death was alcohol toxicity (his blood alcohol level was reportedly .35%,) aggravated by preexisting liver damage/cirrhosis.

    About Donal Bessent

    Fred Donald Bessent, born March 13, 1931, was raised in Jacksonville Florida and became a promising baseball player. 

    Signed by the New York Yankees directly out of high school in 1949, he pitched a no-hitter and went 22-7 in Class D in his very first professional season. Following this, Bessent moved up to the Class B and enjoyed an 11-2 season with a 2.04 earned run average.

    Unfortunately, however, Bessent soon developed a spinal condition that required corrective surgery. He was unable to pitch in 1952, but soon recovered and was drafted by the Dodgers.

    From 1953 to 1955, Bessent pitched for the St. Paul Saints and enjoyed continuing success. He was called up to the major leagues midseason in July 1955 and did not disappoint, coming out of the bullpen and going 8–1 in the season with a 2.70 ERA.

    1955 World Series

    Bessent is best remembered for his performance in the 1955 World Series as a rookie member of “The Boys of Summer,” playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Yankees. 

    Nicknamed “the Weasel,” he pitched over 13 scoreless innings in series games and helped the Dodgers get their first championship in the books.

    1956 World Series

    He also pitched well in the following season, going 4-3 with nine saves and a 2.50 ERA. 

    He helped the team win a second National League pennant, though they would lose the 1956 World Series to the New York Yankees despite Bessent pitching the final seven innings of Game 2 and earning a win.

    Arm Problems

    Bennet’s performance fell off in 1957 as he began developing arm problems after moving with the team to Los Angeles. 

    His ERA slipped to 5.73 in 44 innings, and in 1958 he pitched his final major league baseball game before moving back down to the minor leagues for four less successful seasons.

    His final professional game came in 1962, during which he pitched 10 games for his hometown team in Jacksonville, in the international league, and then withdrew from the sport.


    While he never rose to become a breakout star in MLB, Bessent was remembered fondly by teammates like Don Newcombe, Clem Labine, and Ed Roebuck as a quiet and respected rookie with an intimidating fastball.

    Don Bessent and Dodgers teammates celebrating a win in their locker room

    “One thing that could be said for Don, he always went out strong every time he pitched,” Carl Erskine, a Dodger pitching star from the era, told the Associated Press.

    Overall, Bessent finished his big-league career with a 14-7 record, a 3.33 ERA and 12 saves. And he was survived by three daughters and his wife, Joan, who also lived in Jacksonville.

    Recovery Is Possible

    Unfortunately, the tale of a talented athlete falling out of the spotlight and turning to alcohol is all too common.

    When alcohol is used recklessly, it becomes habit-forming and chronically toxic, damaging not only the liver but the heart, brain, blood vessels, immune system, and every other bodily organ.

    However, recovery from alcohol addiction is possible with an individualized treatment plan in a professional treatment setting. Treatment options for alcohol abuse include medical detox, medication-assisted treatment, behavioral therapy, and peer support.

    To learn about our alcohol use disorder treatment options, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
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