Shock of Lidle news reaches all
Players at ALCS express fond memories of former teammate
OAKLAND -- Hours before Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, the afternoon sun was glistening over McAfee Coliseum. The sky was clear blue. All seemed right in the baseball world. And then, there was news that cast a pall over the entire day.
Right-handed pitcher Cory Lidle, who had some of the best moments of his baseball career for the Oakland Athletics, died on Wednesday when he piloted a plane that crashed into a 50-story building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
"We were all kind of watching in shock on CNN today," said A's ace Barry Zito, a rotation mate of Lidle's for two seasons. "There were a few of us who played with him in '01 and '02. But more than that, we're like a big family, guys in the Major Leagues. Regardless of personal ties, everyone feels."
Lidle, who was traded from the Phillies to the Yankees on July 30, had just pitched in Game 4 of the Division Series against the Tigers four days ago.
Tigers closer Todd Jones was a teammate of Lidle's with the Reds and Phillies in 2004.
"Everybody in the clubhouse was saying how weird it was," said Jones. "I even spoke to him during Game 1 of the ALDS. We were talking and he was talking about what he liked to do. He liked to play cards and had a charity poker tournament that he had the last couple years. It was picking up some steam. This is tough."
"On behalf of the entire Tigers organization and this particular team, we would like to send our deepest sympathy to the wife and the son of Cory Lidle, to the Yankee family," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "Three days ago Cory Lidle was an opponent. But all of us in baseball lost a good teammate. So we send our deepest sympathy out to the family."
There was a moment of silence for Lidle roughly 15 minutes before game-time, as a picture of the right-hander was displayed on the scoreboard.
"Cory's death is a terrible shock to all of us," A's general manager Bill Beane said in a statement. "Our sympathies go out to his wife Melanie and their young son, Christopher. We all have fond memories of Cory and his family during his time with our organization and he'll be missed by us all."
"It's tough," said A's third base coach Ron Washington. "When you get a family member, any member of baseball, it doesn't matter what organization you're with, is a family member. You think about his family. You think about the good life that's just been lost."
With the pregame routine going on as usual and the sound of the crack of the bat ever-present in the background, A's third baseman Eric Chavez tried to come to grips with it all.
"Just shocked," said Chavez. "We were just watching the TV. There was shock. When I first got here, I don't think we knew what was going on. They started popping up his picture and his name. At first I started hoping that he just owned the plane and he wasn't in it. Then you found out he was in it. It's very disturbing."
Both teams came to the ballpark gearing up for a big game, in the context of baseball, but were hit with something that transcended their jobs.
"I'm sure people are going to have their feelings about it," said A's manager Ken Macha, Oakland's bench coach during Lidle's stay with the A's. "Maybe it will put the game in perspective. Myself personally, this thing could end at any second, sometimes that's the way life does end. It's tragic."
"I'm sure it will be looming and I'm sure it will be in everybody's heads," said Zito. "Especially the 50 guys down here in the dugouts and the coaching staffs. You know, we've just got to go on and I'm sure Lidle would want us to keep moving right along and keep baseball and everything intact and just keep going."
Many of the players were unaware that Lidle had taken up flying.
"That's something new," said Jones. "I was with him in '04 and he hadn't mentioned anything about that. They said he had only 75 hours of flying time so I don't even know where they said he was flying to. It's tough because now I've played with Darryl Kile, I played with Cory Lidle, I've played with a couple of other people that have passed away."
"Vaguely, I remember him having an interest [in flying]," said Zito. "I don't think he was pursuing it back then. I know Lidle was big in poker playing and obviously he wanted to be a pilot and he was. He accomplished that."
Through their grieving, players were able to express their fond remembrances of Lidle, who was described by many as a free spirit.
"We used to call him 'snacks' because he'd be eating Reese's in between innings while he was pitching," Zito said. "He'd go up there [to the clubhouse] and get some M&M's, maybe some ice cream, all the while throwing eight scoreless innings."
In these parts, they remember the epic August of 2002 put forth by Lidle, who went 5-0 with a 0.20 ERA to earn American League Pitcher of the Month. That was right in the heart of the 20-game winning streak produced by the A's.
"Towards the end of the year, he carried us," remembered Chavez.
Though the A's had more ties with Lidle, the news had a considerable impact in both dugouts.
"There were a couple of guys in here that played with him," said Jones. "Sean Casey played with him. Vance [Wilson] played with him in Spring Training."
"That's all there is," Chavez said. "He pitched a couple of days ago in Detroit. It's pretty disheartening."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.