HARD ON THE HEELS of a playoff loss, the New York Yankees have suffered a more personal one: the death, via small-engine plane, of pitcher Cory Lidle. I don't normally follow baseball in general or the Yanks in particular, but the mode of his passing — his plane flew into the side of an Upper East Side condo tower — definitely got my attention. Only later in the workday did the identity of one of its passengers emerge.
Let's back up to this afternoon. My immediate supervisor got a call from her mother, who told her a plane had flown into a building. Said boss transmitted that fact, sans specifics, to the other three designers in our group. This may have been all her mother knew at the time. Even so, she might have checked the Web for a couple of details before passing this fact straight along. (She is also the type to forward Net glurge before checking with urban legend site Snopes.com.)
So with a detached-sounding "Hmmmm . . . ," I hit up CNN's site to see what the facts were. As it slowly loaded (clearly mine was not the only inquiring mind), my boss said if we didn't feel safe staying at the office, we could go. This I needed to hear. So when I got the capsule summary of the breaking story — small plane, residential building, UES — I relaxed, and quickly let the group know that this was a limited, accident-related event and not an apparent terror attack. "Unless," I added, "the plane was brimming with anthrax."
At this stage, all we knew was that there had been a crash, with no details on victims. It was only at 5:00 or so, as I was leaving, when I heard one guy a few cubes away say, "A Yankee?!" I thought maybe one of the Bombers owned a condo in the building, and perhaps by extreme chance his was hit. Not so. Upon loading ESPN.com, however, I saw the first sketchy details of the story.
As I said, I don't follow baseball, so I didn't really know Cory Lidle. Was this just a terrible accident, or a deliberate crash on the part of a disturbed player whose team got washed out of the playoffs? Upon returning home, I consulted the mighty Felix as to what he knew of Lidle, aside from his being a recent acquisition from the Phillies. He said he had heard nothing to suggest that Lidle was the pinstripe equivalent of Terrell Owens. By this point, the news radio stations were both going nonstop on Lidle and the accident. At this point it does simply seem like a sad misadventure on the part of an enthusiastic, safety-aware amateur pilot.
One fact that emerged from the radio reports was that Lidle was a member of the Yankees chess club. Who knew they had such a thing? With the swollen egos on that team, I would not have imagined some of the players might devote themselves to such a slow-paced, intellectual exercise. Lidle was reported to find it calming to play a game or two before trotting out onto the diamond. I had a childhood interest in chess that, although it never developed into any sort of adult skill, did leave me with an appreciation of those who play.
I'm sure I'll get a little stuffed full of the coverage over the next couple of days. To be sure, all due respect to his survivors (including a son that just turned 6), I'm truly happy it wasn't as dire as my boss's mom had made it sound. It still represents a very tragic coda to a season that, in the end, fell well short of expectations. Hopefully the Yankees will be inspired to play with even more heart when spring training is over and they return to the Bronx, minus their fallen teammate.