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MLB mourns loss of Lidle

MLB mourns loss of Lidle

NEW YORK -- Statements of shock and remorse came in from all over the baseball world on Wednesday night, reacting to the death of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, who perished in the crash of his single-engine plane earlier in the day when it struck a Manhattan apartment building.

"All of baseball is shocked and terribly saddened by the sudden and tragic passing of Cory Lidle," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Cory was only 34 years old and had played in the Major Leagues for nine seasons with seven different clubs. He leaves a young wife, Melanie, and a young son, Christopher. Our hearts go out to them on this terrible day."

"This is a terrible and shocking tragedy that has stunned the entire Yankees organization," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said in a statement. "I offer my deep condolences and prayers to his wife, Melanie, and son, Christopher, on their enormous loss."

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Lidle died in a plane crash on Manhattan's Upper East Side, as a single-engine aircraft he was piloting crashed into a high-rise apartment building.

The Phillies traded Lidle along with right-fielder Bobby Abreu to the Yankees at the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Previous to his time with the Phillies and Yankees, Lidle also pitched for the Mets, Devil Rays, A's, Blue Jays and Reds. He was signed by Minnesota in 1990 as an amateur free agent.

The Phillies picked him up in late 2004, hoping he would boost them toward the playoffs that season. But the Phillies finished second in the National League East, 10 games behind the division-winning Braves and well behind the Wild Card-winning Astros.

"The Phillies family is extremely saddened by the tragic news involving Cory Lidle," Dave Montgomery, the team's longtime president, said. "Our thoughts and prayers are extended to his wife, Melanie, son, Christopher, and those families who were affected by the terrible incident in New York."

"When I heard the news, I was shocked," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I couldn't believe it. Cory was a true professional, who gave his all every time he went to the mound. My deepest sympathy goes out to his family."

"First and foremost, my heart sinks for Melanie and Christopher," said friend and Phillies pitching mate Randy Wolf. "I feel fortunate that I got to know Cory, first as a teammate and then as a friend. This whole thing makes me feel numb. Cory was an even better person than he was a pitcher, and I hope that's how he's remembered."

"The tragic passing of Cory is very disturbing," Phils general manager Pat Gillick said. "He was still a young man. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and son and the other families who were affected by this tragic incident."

Lidle was the first Major League Baseball player to be killed in a plane crash since Aug. 2, 1979, when Yankees catcher Thurman Munson perished while practicing flying a plane in his hometown of Canton, Ohio. Munson had gone home during an off-day in the Yankees' schedule.

In Lidle's case, the Yankees had just been eliminated from the playoffs this past Saturday, when they lost their American League Division Series in four games to the Tigers at Detroit. Lidle was one of the few players at Yankee Stadium the next day to pack his things, and he spoke to the media about the disappointing end to the season.

Jason Giambi, who was a teammate of Lidle in both Oakland and New York, was also a teammate of the pitcher at South Hills High School in West Covina, Calif.

"Right now, I am really in a state of shock, as I am sure the entire MLB family is," Giambi said in a statement. "My thoughts are with Cory's relatives and the loved ones of the others who were injured or killed in this plane crash.

"I have known Cory and his wife Melanie for over 18 years and watched his son grow up. We played high school ball together and have remained close throughout our careers. We were excited to be reunited in New York this year and I am just devastated to hear this news."

Several of Lidle's teammates said that he discussed his favorite hobby often, telling tales of his time in the air. Yankees reliever Mike Myers was scheduled to fly from New York to Atlantic City with Lidle on an off-day last month, but their plans were canceled at the last minute.

"I know Cory had a passion for it and really loved flying," Myers said. "He was excited about his new hobby. It's very tragic. It's hard to believe."

A native of Los Angeles, Lidle was reportedly flying his plane home to California when he crashed. His wife and child flew home via a commercial airline.

"Cory was a true family man and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family," said Tim Hudson, the Braves pitcher who was a teammate of Lidle in Oakland. "A lot of us have lost a teammate, but they have lost a husband and father, and that's tragic."

"We are deeply saddened by this terrible tragedy and mourn the loss of a member of our extended family," said a statement issued by the Devil Rays, where Lidle played part-time in 1999 and 2000. "We join the Yankees and the entire MLB community in extending our deepest sympathies to his family."

"On behalf of Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz, Jeff Wilpon and the entire Mets organization, we express our heartfelt condolences to the Lidle family," the Mets said in a statement. Lidle came up and pitched in 57 games for them during the 1997 season. "Cory broke into the Majors with us nine years ago and developed into a solid Major League pitcher. The entire baseball community mourns his loss."

Cory Lidle: 1972-2006

Lidle's passing was not the only baseball-related flight death of the year.

On Aug. 27, Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb lost his close friend and college roommate, Jon Hooker, when a Comair Commuter flight took the wrong runway at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Ky., and plummeted into the woods killing 49 of the 50 people on board. Hooker had just been married the night before to Scarlett Parsley, and they were on their way to honeymoon in California.

A's pitcher Joe Blanton played with Webb and Hooker on the University of Kentucky baseball team.

Lidle preceded Blanton in Oakland and played for the A's in 2001 and 2002.

"Cory's death is a terrible shock to all of us," said Billy Beane, the A's vice president and general manager in Oakland, where his club was playing Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against Detroit on Wednesday night. "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."

Lidle went from Oakland to Toronto in 2003 and remained with the Blue Jays for a year.

"The Blue Jays mourn the loss of our friend Cory Lidle and extend our sincere sympathies to his family, friends and teammates in the time of this tremendous loss," said Paul Godfrey, the team's president and chief executive. "It's stunning and truly tragic that a player who was competing in the playoffs just a few short days ago has left us."

Reed Johnson, the Toronto outfielder who played with Lidle on the Blue Jays, said he was also stunned by the tragedy.

"That was my rookie year, so you remember the whole year like it was yesterday," Johnson said. "He was friends with everybody. It seemed like everyone got along with him really well. To hear that news, that's tough to swallow. He had a lot of friends in Oakland, too. So I'm sure it's going to be tough on a lot of people there to concentrate on the game tonight."

In 2004, Lidle went from Toronto to Cincinnati, where he played for four months before going on to the Phillies. Former Reds general manager Dan O'Brien said he knew back then that Lidle wanted to get his pilot's license.

"When we brought him to Cincinnati, he was just beginning to show an interest in flying," said O'Brien, now working as an advisor to the Brewers. "Frankly, we didn't have any problem with it. That was Cory. He was always interested in the next technical challenge. I suppose that [piloting] was the next challenge on the radar, so to speak. I'm terribly saddened by the news."

So were Lidle's former Reds teammates.

"This is a shock to everybody," said Aaron Harang, who played with Lidle in Cincinnati and Oakland. "We talked to each other a couple of times each offseason, and we'd visit when we played the Phillies and we saw each other at Spring Training when we went to Clearwater, [Fla.] He'll definitely be missed. He was definitely a person you could like. I don't know what else to say. It's still a shock to me."

Don Fehr, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said: "We were very shocked and saddened to learn of the fatal plane crash involving Cory Lidle, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cory's family and friends, and to the families and friends of others killed or injured in this terrible accident."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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