NBC Report: Richard McWilliam’s death caused by alcohol poisoning

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By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

Upper Deck co-founder and CEO Richard P. McWilliam died because of alcohol poisoning while at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., on Jan. 5, according to a report from NBCSanDiego.com.

According to the story, the autopsy report states that “McWilliam had been binge drinking for several days and had a blood-alcohol level of 0.27 in his system at the time of his death.” That amount is three times the legal limit and, according to the autopsy report, NBCSanDiego said, he had “alcoholic dementia and was abusing pain medication.”

McWilliam’s wife also confirmed his habits, according to the report, which she said had worsened since his having heart surgery in 2008.

The company named Jason Masherah as president. Masherah had been running the day-to-day operations of the company following McWilliam’s health issues.

Hailed as a visionary by many for changing the industry in its early days, McWilliam and Upper Deck helped arrived on the baseball scene in 1989 with a higher-end approach to card-making with tamper-proof packaging, randomly sequenced packs and holograms that prevented counterfeiting of the cards.  It added NHL, NBA and NFL licenses in the following years and helped usher in some of the hobby’s innovations such as certified autographs and game-used memorabilia cards on a widespread basis, though the company was not the first in some instances.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

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  1. King Bish 8 March, 2013 at 14:17

    We should ban alcohol because a few people abuse it, because a few people ruin their lives with it, and because a few people ruin other people’s lives with it. Not the vast majority, mind you, but a few. So we should ban it.

  2. Twitch702 9 March, 2013 at 01:27

    @King Bish, Everyone is entitled to their own belief however if you recall the United States did outlaw the sale and manufacture of alcohol in 1919 and in doing so unintentionally caused the largest period of organized crime and domestic terrorism the country had ever seen resulting in the creation of the FBI and eventually the ATF. When the ban was lifted in 1933 crime rates immediately dropped significantly. Besides it did nothing to stop those from drinking who wanted to drink. It was a failed law, and alcohol, as destructive as it may be to those who abuse it, or are victims of those who do is an enormous source of tax revenue without which this nation would be in an even deeper world of hurt. There are still many “dry” counties where you can not buy alcohol (Jack Daniels is distilled in such a county) The UD CEO was found with a BAC of 0.27 which in itself is nowhere near fatal. It’s the equivilant of drinking 6-8 beers in about an hour to an hour and a half. What killed him was the combination of prescription pain medication and a history of severe heart problems. Banning liquor is not the answer. Education of the next generation regarding its dangers is, and if alcohol were illegal this man would still be dead as he would have obtained bootleg liquor anyway.

  3. William 9 March, 2013 at 12:33

    Since when did Beckett.com become 20/20 or Dateline NBC? Why not let Mr.McWilliams rest in peace .. is this article really necessary Chris? In my opinion, this is only stomping on the grave of a dead man and really serves no real purpose on a collecting website.other than to bring up again what most in the hobby already know, that McWilliams while a hobby visionary was a flawed man in many respects like most of us.

  4. Chris Harris 9 March, 2013 at 13:55

    No, we should just have a five day waiting period before anyone can purchase alcohol. And a background check. And limit the amount of booze you can buy at once. You know, for “the children.”

  5. chrisolds 9 March, 2013 at 14:30

    William: We covered his death and at the time the cause was not known. This is a follow-up. It’s simple reporting — and people who read the original story probably still want to know. Another reason why it’s here? He was easily one of the most important people in the industry the last 20-plus years. When someone of that stature dies unexpectedly, it’s even more newsworthy (I.e. important.) Also, please note that this is a straight reporting of the facts, nothing more. Some people won’t like all stories, but others are glad to be informed. In fact, I was thanked by a couple of people in private messages when this story ran — they were curious about it and either knew him or worked for him.

  6. Ben 9 March, 2013 at 21:12

    William, while I understand that some people don’t care to read about this, I think it is newsworthy given the person who died. McWilliam was a huge name in the hobby, we should know why he died. Media does this all the time with people I. The “real world.” If a political or sports figure died, there is an initial story and the. A subsequent one when the cause of death is released. There are even follow ups when regular people die. If a newspaper or magazine reports Person X dies, there is almost an obligation to tell us of the circumstances when they become available. If Chris (or other media) didn’t report why he died, you get nonstop speculation. Now that NBC, and Chris, have reported the cause, we’ll forever know why. I have zero problem with the follow up.

  7. Dwayne Carter 10 March, 2013 at 03:36

    wonder what pain pills he was taking and how he got them. sounds more like a suicide than on OD. if he’s had these habits for a minute, it’s not hard to figure out how much is your limit. wonder if his life insurance will pay out.

  8. Dwayne Carter 10 March, 2013 at 03:39

    .27 is all? i’ve had .50 before, and i was a+o x3. definitely more going on than they are saying.

  9. Tony 10 March, 2013 at 12:50

    @Dwayne. The fact that you know what a+o x3 is tells me you are either in healthcare (and should know better), or ended up in an ER. I’d keep those stories to myself. =/

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