Lidle's managers in Minors recall his spirit, talent

Journeyman pitcher traversed 15 Minor League clubs over 13 years

(Jae C. Hong/AP)

October 11, 2006 3:45 PM ET

Former managers of Cory Lidle reminisced about the hurler's time in the Minor Leagues after the Yankees pitcher died in a plane crash Wednesday.

The 34-year-old died when the private plane in which he was flying crashed into a 50-story building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Reports indicated that Lidle's passport was found on the sidewalk near the building.

"I'm shocked," said John Tamargo, Lidle's manager with the Binghamton Mets in 1996. "You always remember the players that gave you everything and were respectful. He was a great leader on our club and was always smiling and laughing and having a good time."

Lidle, who last pitched out of the bullpen in Saturday's elimination game against the Tigers, made his professional debut with the Gulf Coast Twins in 1991. In 13 seasons in the Minors, Lidle had a career record of 59-40 with a 3.36 ERA. He spent time with 15 different Minor League teams in seven organizations before he was sent to New York from Philadelphia on July 30.

He threw for Elizabethton in the Rookie Appalachian League in 1992, followed by two years with the Rookie Pioneer League's Pocatello. In 1994, he made stops in the Class A Midwest League (Beloit) and the Class A Advanced California League (Stockton), before reaching Double-A with stints for the Texas League's El Paso in 1995 and the Eastern League's Binghamton in 1996. In 1997, he reached Triple-A with Norfolk in the International League and the Majors with the Mets for the first time.

He returned to the Cal League with High Desert in 1998, then was promoted to Tucson in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League that season. He started 1999 with St. Petersburg in the Florida State League, then jumped to Triple-A Durham and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He threw nine games for Durham in the International League the next year, then went back to Tampa Bay. In 2001 and 2002, he made single appearances for Sacramento in the Pacific Coast League, before his final one in the Minors -- four shutout innings -- for Syracuse in 2003.

Lidle also played for Mesa in the Arizona Fall League in 1995. The league had a moment of silence in his memory before Wednesday's home game against Phoenix.

"He was just a great, great guy," said Mike Birling, Lidle's general manager with the Durham Bulls. "He understood not only the baseball side of it, but how important fans are and how important it is to be a part of Minor League community."

"He was a young guy when he played for me, but he had already distinguished himself in a number of ways," said Ray Smith, Lidle's manager at Elizabethton in 1992. "He was attack-oriented with a good breaking ball that he could always throw for a strike. He had a lot of confidence when he was young and it was consistent with how he pitched recently."

Lidle made his big-league debut with the Mets in 1997. In nine seasons in the Majors, he went 82-72 with a 4.57 ERA.

"You knew he was going to be a Major League pitcher," Tamargo said. "You could tell he would be able to compete at the Major League level."

Max Lance is a contributor to Jason Ratliff and Mark Feinsand of also contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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