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Respect well-earned for focused Lidle

Respect well-earned for focused Lidle

OAKLAND -- Cory Fulton Lidle had a nickname of "Snacks" for his propensity for munching on candy between innings of his starts. He didn't have a world-beating pitching repertoire, but if you ask those who played with him or against him, you'd find out that Lidle was an intense competitor who belonged on the mound every fifth day.

Never an All-Star but for the last several years a starting pitcher who made an impact on the game and the teams for which he played, Lidle was killed Wednesday when the small plane he was piloting crashed into a Manhattan highrise. Lidle was 34.

The "Snacks" nickname stuck with him when he was in Oakland, and the background of it was a prime example of Lidle's unique place in the game.

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"We used to call him 'Snacks' because he'd be eating Reese's [Pieces] in between innings while he was pitching," former A's teammate Barry Zito said prior to Oakland's Game 2 loss to Detroit in the American League Championship Series. "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."

While the baseball world, blissfully involved in the Championship Series round of the playoffs until the news hit, reacted in shock to the news that one of its own had been killed, a family mourned a husband and father. Lidle is survived by his wife Melanie and a 6-year-old son Christopher.

A high school teammate of Jason Giambi who was reunited with Giambi in a Yankees uniform this past summer when he was traded from Philadelphia, Lidle's career numbers reflect a pitcher who battled to stay in games and at times to stay in rotations. Lidle went 82-72 in 277 career appearances, including 199 starts, posting a 4.57 ERA in 1,322 2/3 innings with seven different Major League teams.

"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."

Lidle broke into the big leagues with the Mets in 1999, four years after he was among many players who went to camp to prepare for a Major League season during the players' strike. He paid for that decision the rest of his career, never being able to join the Major League Baseball Players' Association.

Over the years, however, he earned the respect of teammates and opponents alike with his approach to the game. Always outspoken and opinionated in his comments to the media and often at odds with pitching coaches, Lidle was comfortable being a Major Leaguer and evolved into the type of pitcher a contending team felt it needed for the stretch run.

Cory Lidle: 1972-2006

That's how he wound up being traded to the Yankees this summer in a deal that also brought Bobby Abreu to the Bronx from Philadlephia. Lidle pitched in 10 games, going 4-3 with a 5.16 ERA for the Yankees down the stretch, but wasn't included on the Division Series rotation. He did make one relief appearance, allowing three earned runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings. It was his third appearance in the postseason, following one start in 2001 and a relief appearance in 2002 with the A's.

With Philadelphia, Lidle had two of the team's four shutouts in 2005 and earned 13 victories, a career high set in 2001 with the Oakland A's.

The 2004 season was his best overall. He began the campaign with the Cincinnati Reds, making his first Opening Day start that year and winding up throwing a career-high 211 1/3 innings and matching the Major League lead with three shutouts, two of which came after he was traded to the Phillies on Aug. 9.

But the 2001 season was a gem for Lidle as well. He entered the season as the fifth starter and went 13-6 in 29 starts. Lidle was brought to Oakland in a three-team deal that moved him from Tampa Bay to the A's and he responded by working his way into a talented rotation that included aces Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder at the top.

Lidle continued to contribute to that vaunted pitching staff in 2002. On July 19 of that year, he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning at Texas before Juan Gonzalez led off with a double. He wound up pitching the ninth inning for his first career shutout. That month, he was a huge part of Oakland's 20-game winning streak, going 5-0 with a 0.20 ERA to earn American League Pitcher of the Month honors.

He was traded that November to Toronto, where he finished the 2003 season with a 12-15 record and a career-high 5.75 ERA. Lidle then moved on to Cincinnati as a free agent that winter and wound up putting up a career year, split between the Reds and the Phillies.

Originally drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1990 out of South Hills High School, the Hollywood native was released and picked up by the Brewers, who traded him to the Mets. Once there, his Major League journey began, spiced in with some trips to the Minors early on, and it continued until his tragic death Wednesday.

Along with his wife and child, Lidle leaves behind his parents and a twin brother, Kevin, who said on CNN's "Larry King Live" that he had spoken to their parents, who were "obviously having a tough time."

"But what can you do? Somehow you hang in there and you get through it," he said. "I've had a lot of calls from friends and family, people calling and crying. And they've released some emotions, and I haven't done that yet. I don't know -- I guess I'm in some kind of state of shock."

For baseball's players participating in the postseason, the feeling of losing a member of the family was much the same. The news of his death was understandably and hugely sobering.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland, meanwhile, took time to reflect on Lidle's passing before his postgame comments after the Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the ALCS and truly summed up what people around the game were feeling.

"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 his family," Leyland said.

John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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