Tuesday, March 29, 2011
#526) CORY LIDLE
Cory Lidle was traded by the Milwaukee Brewers to the New York Mets in exchange for Kelly Stinnett on January 17, 1996. The right-hander began the 1997 season in Triple-A Norfolk, but a poor start by the major-league bullpen brought about sweeping change. The Mets designated Toby Borland for assignment and promoted Lidle to New York. Although never overpowering, Cory had a reputation of pitching to contact. "Our bullpen is comprised of guys who throw strikes," pitching coach, Bob Apodaca described the new look relievers. "They're going to dominate the strike zone, and that's what you want." Lidle made his major-league debut throwing two scoreless innings of relief during the Mets 4-2 loss to the Astros in Houston on May 8, 1997.
The rookie was credited with his first career victory in his second appearance, and would not surrender a run until his sixth. Cory had a perfect 3-0 record with a save and 2.57 ERA during his first ten games. It was assumed that Lidle would return to the minors eventually, but he kept throwing strikes, and kept getting outs. Cory was superb in middle relief. Attempts to pitch him in pressure situations during the eighth and ninth innings was not nearly as successful. In the end his first season in the big leagues yielded a fine 7-2 record, two saves, 3.53 ERA, and only 20 walks in 81-2/3 innings of work.
In October the Mets announced that Lidle was suffering from a stress fracture in his shoulder. Many spectulated that this was just a ploy to deter selection of the unprotected pitcher in the expansion draft coming that next month. "We thought Cory was one of the guys that Arizona was thinking about," said Omar Minaya, then the Mets' assistant general manager. "We thought it was a high probability he was going to be taken." The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Lidle as the 13th pick in the first round of the draft on November 18th. "I don't even know what to think," Cory said. "It hasn't hit me. This is one city I do like. I'm glad to play here."
Lidle would go on to a long major-league career that saw him as a member of the New York Yankees in 2006. While piloting his Cirrus Design SR-20 airplane he crashed into the 40th floor of a high-rise apartment building in Manhattan. Both the 34-year old pitcher and the flight instructor who was riding along were killed in the trajedy on October 11, 2006. Cory left behind his wife and six-year old son.
"We would call him 'Snacks' because he would eat Reese's between innings when he was pitching,' recalled A's teammate, Barry Zito. "He'd have Whoppers, ice cream all while throwing eight scoreless innings."
For years Lidle had raised money for the Make A Wish Foundation with charity golf and poker tournaments. The Cory Lidle Celebrity Poker Tournament drew many famous poker players, as well as baseball greats. "If you come across a table of baseball players at a poker table," Cory was once quoted. "snag a seat or at least put your name on the waiting list because it could really pay off."
I created Cory Lidle's card in the set from a signed index card given to me by my good friend Jessie on February 22, 2011.