Lidle was outspoken free spirit

Teammate Fasano remembers pitcher's excitement when he first bought plane

October 12, 2006|By Jim Baumbach | Jim Baumbach,NEWSDAY

New York -- Cory Lidle was a baseball player by profession, but he didn't look like one, nor did he act like one. He was 5 feet 11 and 175 pounds and preferred to play chess, poker, pool and, sadly, to fly planes.

Lidle, 34, was nicknamed "Snacks" by his Oakland Athletics teammates several years ago for his love of all things sweet, and he helped add some color to the New York Yankees' clubhouse this season by pushing chess.

And then there was his interest in flying, which led him to buy a plane and take the time to earn his license last winter.

As the tragic news unfolded yesterday that Lidle was killed when his plane crashed into a building in Manhattan, Sal Fasano flashed back to the day when Lidle actually purchased the plane.

Fasano, a teammate of Lidle's in New York and Philadelphia this season, recalls Lidle excitedly coming into the Phillies' clubhouse, so much so that his teammates could tell something was up.

"He brought the pictures of his plane around the clubhouse, showed all the guys," Fasano, a former Oriole, said from his home in Minooka, Ill. "He showed me, and I have to say, it was a nice-looking plane."

Lidle was a free spirit, a refreshing quote, and he spoke to everyone the same way, regardless of whether you were Derek Jeter or some stranger who was playing pool one table over.

On Sunday, Lidle stood in front of his Yankee Stadium locker and cleaned it out, telling reporters he would seek a new two-year contract with perhaps an option for a third year.

He broke in with the New York Mets in 1997 and was hit with controversy, a theme that followed him everywhere. Players called him a "scab" for pitching a spring training inning for the Milwaukee Brewers during the 1994-95 players strike, something he never lived down.

Lidle went 82-72 with a 4.57 ERA during a career in which he made more than $17 million. But he will be best remembered by the many controversies he was a part of, most of which he brought on himself with his words.

He spoke his mind and didn't care.

There was the time in 2001 when he badmouthed the management of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, or when he said last May that he was hoping Barry Bonds would not achieve the all-time home run record.

Lidle spent only two months with the Yankees, acquired from the Phillies a day before the July 31 waiver trade deadline. But twice as a Yankee his words drew criticism - on his first and, sadly, his last day in pinstripes.

After the Yankees acquired him, he questioned his Phillies teammates' drive on a conference call, saying, "It's almost a coin flip whether the guys behind me are going to play 100 percent."

Then, on Sunday, Lidle said the Yankees were "surprised how not ready we were for that series," referring to their playoff loss to the Detroit Tigers. When WFAN radio's Mike Francesa and Christopher Russo criticized him for speaking out, he had no problem dialing them up and defending himself.

Most players wouldn't do that, but it wasn't unusual for Lidle.

Jim Baumbach writes for Newsday.

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