Wednesday, October 11, 2006

RIP>>>CORY LIDLE

10/11/2006 8:16 PM ET
Yankees' Lidle killed in plane crash
Small plane he was piloting slams into Manhattan high-rise
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Cory Lidle spent time with seven big-league teams, including the Yanks this season. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
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Reports indicated that the plane took off from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey around 2:30 p.m. ET, crashing into the building roughly 15 minutes later.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that two people on the plane were killed, but nobody in the building or on the street died in the accident. Federal Aviation Administration officials said the two dead were a flight instructor and a student pilot.

Over the weekend in Detroit, Lidle discussed his flight plan with teammates. Aaron Guiel said Wednesday that Lidle planned to take the cross-country trip with his flight instructor.

"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."

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig echoed such sentiments.

"All of baseball is shocked and terribly saddened by the sudden and tragic passing of Cory Lidle," Commissioner 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."

The single-engine plane, a Cirrus SR20, was purchased by Lidle last offseason for $187,000 after he earned his pilot's license.

Lidle, whose team was eliminated from postseason play on Saturday by the Detroit Tigers, told reporters on Sunday that he planned to fly home to California on Wednesday. He said it would take roughly 15 hours of flying time, though he planned on stopping at least twice, including one stop in Arizona.

ESPN reported that Lidle's wife, Melanie, was on a commercial flight headed for California and was not on board Lidle's plane. ESPN also reported that Lidle called in fuel problems shortly after takeoff.

"I am deeply saddened by this tragic event and I ask everyone to keep Cory, his family and all those affected by this tragedy in your prayers," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

"This is a terrible shock," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "I was with Ron Guidry and Lee Mazzilli when I heard the news and we were just stunned. Cory's time with the Yankees was short, but he was a good teammate and a great competitor. My heart goes out to his family."

Lidle's agent, Jordan Feagan, told Newsday he was told by the Yankees that Lidle was among the fatalities in the crash.

"He wasn't just my client," Feagan said. "He was probably my closest friend."

Federal Aviation Administration records showed the plane was registered to Lidle, an FBI official said, and FBI reports show that Lidle's passport was found at the scene.

FAA spokeswoman Diane Spitaliere said the plane was apparently not in contact with air traffic controllers. Pilots flying small planes by sight are not required to be in contact.

Lidle's interest in flying was examined in a New York Times story on Sept. 8. In that article, Lidle discussed the safety issues regarding the plane.

"The whole plane has a parachute on it," Lidle told the Times. "Ninety-nine percent of pilots that go up never have engine failure, and the one percent that do usually land it. But if you're up in the air and something goes wrong, you pull that parachute, and the whole plane goes down slowly."

Lidle also talked about the airplane's safety in an interview with MLB.com in February.

"If you're 7,000 feet in the air and your engine stops, you can glide for 20 minutes," Lidle said at the time. "As long as you're careful, everything should be fine."

There have been several fatal plane crashes involving Major League players, the two most famous being the one that killed Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente in 1972 and the one in which Yankees captain Thurman Munson died in 1979.

Lidle, a right-hander, was acquired by the Yankees from the Philadelphia Phillies on July 30 in a trade that also brought right fielder Bobby Abreu to New York. Lidle went 4-3 with a 5.16 ERA in 10 games, nine of them starts, for the Yankees.

Lidle also pitched for the Mets, Devil Rays, A's, Blue Jays and Reds. He played in all or parts of nine Major League seasons and had a career record of 82-72.

"The Phillies family is extremely saddened by the tragic news involving Cory Lidle," Phillies president David Montgomery said in a statement. "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."

Yankees captain Derek Jeter added in statement: "I am shocked by this devastating news. Spending the last few months as Cory's teammate, I came to know him as a great man. While he was known as a baseball player, he was, more importantly, a husband and father and, at a time like this, I want to share my deepest sympathies with his wife Melanie, his son Christopher and all those who know and loved him."

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