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Archive for Friday, October 13, 2006

Lidle could truly say, ‘I did it my way’

October 13, 2006

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— Oakland's pitchers met before they faced Baltimore and decided that, under no circumstances, should they throw Jay Gibbons a changeup.

Gibbons came up with two runners on. Cory Lidle threw him a changeup. It landed on a right-field seat.

"Rick Peterson was our pitching coach then," A's manager Ken Macha said Wednesday. "He wasn't too happy. He chewed out Cory when he came back to the dugout."

The next time Lidle faced Gibbons, there were also two runners aboard. And he threw him a changeup again.

"I was doing the chart," said Macha, who was the bench coach at the time. "I think the second home run might have landed on the same seat. Cory did things his own way."

Lidle's 34-year-old life was full of independent decisions, solo flights. The final one was Wednesday, when he flew a plane into a 38-story condominium, near Manhattan's 72nd Street and 1st Avenue.

The pictures of a burning tower and a shattered airplane created much self-explanatory discomfort in New York, and elsewhere. Much is unexplained. Airplanes are prohibited from flying that low in East Side airspace. This plane had a parachute that was supposed to ease it to earth, but it never opened.

We do know Lidle, sent by Philadelphia to the Yankees at the end of July, died the same way Thurman Munson did in 1979.

The Yankees were his seventh major-league team, which meant he left a lot of teammates, in hundreds of places.

Lidle first made it as a replacement player, which made him some automatic enemies. When Tampa Bay traded him to Oakland in 2001, he blasted almost everyone but the clubbies.

"It took me saying that I was sick and tired of doing whatever the pitching coach said, to show other clubs what I could do," he said, blasting Bill Fischer.

He also said - and was not the first to say - that owner Vince Naimoli and general manager Chuck LaMar were know-nothings, and ripped the veterans for not providing leadership.

"When I worry about what Cory Lidle says it's time for me to quit," Greg Vaughn said.

He exploded another bridge when he left Philadelphia. "It was a coin flip whether they would give 100 percent each night," he said.

"He's a scab," reliever Arthur Rhodes replied. "I didn't want to be associated with him when I saw him in the clubhouse on the Internet during a game. He also ate ice cream during games. What kind? Nestle's Crunch."

Lidle said his statements were "taken out of context" on both occasions.

The dimensions of the accident grew sadder and more bizarre as Wednesday went on. His father, Doug, learned of the crash on TV. His wife, Melanie, was flying from New York to LAX at the time, and a priest was scheduled to meet her there with the news.

One could not help but wonder what Lidle would have been doing if the Yankees had beaten Detroit, if they were playing Oakland in the LCS on Wednesday. Or if the Yankees could have won Game 4 with him pitching instead of Jaret Wright.

"I guess it adds perspective," Macha said, "to realize this thing could end any second. Sometimes that's the way it does end."

It ended for Cory Lidle, on his own path.

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