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Cory Lidle: 1972-2006

Ex-Rays Pitcher Cory Lidle Dies in Plane Crash

It is with great sorrow that I post under this heading today, as I just recently found out that former Devil Ray Cory Lidle has been killed as the result of a plane crash in New York City.

The plane, which crashed into a 50-story condo tower on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, was registered in Lidle's name, and the pitcher's love of flying was well-known. One other person was killed in the plane crash.

Lidle's passport was found at the scene of the incident, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg confirmed the death of the Yankees starting pitcher. Lidle had talked about his offseason plans of taking to the air as he cleaned out his Yankee Stadium locker Sunday, after New York's playoff loss to the Detroit Tigers, during which Lidle pitched in Game 4.

This loss reminds us of the black and white world that baseball's chalk lines symbolize. In fair territory is where the pinnacle of human dreams can be accomplished by winning a ring, something that Lidle hoped to do on this postseason. On the other side of the foul pole is a stark reminder of the cold reality of life, where Lidle found his demise all too soon.

While his death will be remembered as the loss of a baseball player, it symbolizes so much more. The premature loss of someone trying to fulfill his dreams. Lidle had just gotten his pilot's license this year, and was aspiring to soar with the clouds and just try to put the eight months of baseball season behind him.

Somewhere on the way though, something went wrong, and a man with so much to live for in the game of baseball, and the game of life after he was done with sports, was gone. It is a stark reminder how quickly the miracle of life can be taken away so fast. The fact that someone as familiar to Rays fans as Lidle could be just...gone one moment is so unreal. We don't believe it, we don't want to believe it, and it is still so hard to believe it. The fact that someone so young could die so soon is unfair, unreal, and just plain sad.

Between the white lines, Lidle was just another journeyman player, a man whose stops happened to include St. Petersburg. Lidle pitched two seasons for the Devil Rays, first being called up in 1999, and then getting a more major role with the team in 2000, when he pitched in 31 games, and started 11 of them, going 4-6 with a 5.01 ERA. He showed outstanding control, walking just 29 in 96.2 innings, and for the remainder of his career, would be a shrewd signing for teams looking for a bolster on their pitching staff.

Lidle bounced around early in his career, originally being signed as an undrafted free agent in 1990 by the Minnesota organization, before being released in 1993. He then played one season with Pocatello team in the Pioneer League before being purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers.

His big breakthrough came in 1996, when he was traded from the Milwaukee organization to the New York Mets, where he made his major league debut in May of 1997. He pitched the remainder of the year for New York, putting up a 3.53 ERA over 54 games the rest of the way. The Diamondbacks saw enough of him to pick him in the expansion draft the following season, however he threw a grand total of two games for Arizona minor league teams due to injury, and was put on waivers following the 1998 season, when he was picked up by Tampa Bay.

Lidle moved with the frequency he had in the 90s after being dealt by the Rays in January of 2001 to Oakland in the deal that sent Roberto Hernandez to Kansas City, Johnny Damon to Oakland, and brought Ben Grieve to St. Pete.

He then had a breakthrough in his two seasons with Oakland, becoming a mainstay in the Athletics' rotation the following two years by posting ERAs of 3.59 and 3.89, making just under 60 starts over two years. He became a key and under appreciated element of Oakland's rotation, helping the A's advance to the playoffs both years.

He regressed slightly after moving north of the border the following year, allowing over 200 hits for the Blue Jays. He was signed by Cincinnati the following year, and was hurt by playing in one of the league's biggest home run launch pads.

He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in midseason, where he flourished for the next two years, putting up solid numbers at the back end of the rotation. He was traded to the Yankees in midseason, which would be the last stop on his career tour, making nine starts for the Yankees after the trading deadline, and pitching in Game Four, the elimination game, of the playoffs.

Lidle was a remarkably consistent pitcher over his major league career for someone with many stops, and while I am sure that he would not enjoy being eulogized by his career stats, it is worth pointing out how much Lidle meant to so many teams and so many lives, in between the immortal chalk lines.

Cory Lidle was a baseball player, and many people will remember him as just that in death, but to someone who can put a human face on these stats, for someone who watched him pitch in Tropicana Field for many years, both as a home and visiting player, Lidle's loss is shockingly close. May you rest in peace Cory.

RIP Cory Lidle