Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lidle's Death Hits A's Hard

OAKLAND, Calif. - Cory Lidle was remembered as a man who pursued his love of games, hobbies and competition with all his might during his brief stay with the Oakland Athletics.

Yesterday, the A's, who shared a locker room with the pitcher in 2001 and 2002, mourned him after learning of Lidle's death after a plane he piloted was aboard crashed into a Manhattan high-rise yesterday afternoon.

But perhaps no one put the 34-year-old Lidle in better perspective than Ron Washington, the A's veteran third-base coach.

"He was a gambler, a big competitor who loved playing games, whether it was playing golf, playing cards, whether it was on the baseball field," a shaken Washington said while sitting at the end of a bench filled with somber A's coaches and players.

Like the rest of the Oakland team, Washington was preparing for the second game of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. But his heart and mind were elsewhere - to be precise, 3,000 miles to the east, where Lidle died.

"When Cory put his mind to doing something, there was nobody who could convince him to do otherwise," said Washington, dealing with yet another tragedy after the March death of his best friend and former teammate, Kirby Puckett.

"He was definitely headstrong," Washington said of Lidle. "And I guess he was still competing up there, with the air. Sadly, the airplane won."

Ken Macha, the A's manager, could not recall whether Lidle's passion for flying began in Oakland. What he did remember was that the pitcher enjoyed some of his finer moments in Oakland.

"I remember the August he had for us: His ERA was like 0.05," said Macha, referring to an August 2002 run in which Lidle threw 32 consecutive scoreless innings.

"He pitched a one-hitter against the Rangers when they had a very potent lineup."

Both Macha and Washington addressed how Lidle's death would affect the A's who played with him.

"I don't think it's going to affect us when it comes time to go out and compete and play baseball," Washington said. "But I think right now, we definitely have some sympathy for his family.

"He had a kid and a wife he left behind. They will be taken care of, but they will be alone, too. And I don't think they envisioned having to be without their dad, their husband. That's a hard pill to swallow."

"I imagine our chapel guy will be around," Macha said. "I'm sure people are going to have their feelings about it, just maybe put the game in perspective. I know myself, personally, this thing could end at any second, and sometimes that is the way life does end."

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