It is a sad day for baseball and for NYC, not just the New York Yankees as Cory Lidle tragically died in the crash of his Cirrus-SR20. Details are still coming out in slow drops, but the incident recalls the deaths of other great athletes in similar ways – Payne Stewart, who’s seventh annivesary will be in less than two weeks, Thurman Munson, Roberto Clemente and “Champagne” Tony Lema to name a few. Steve Czaban has a comprehensive list for those with morbid curiousity.
First, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post wrote an excellent piece praising baseball for canceling the Met game, then poignantly and respectfully brought us all back to August 2, 1979 when we lost quintessential Yankee catcher Thurman Munson the same way – learning to pilot a small hard-to-handle plane, a Cessna. Vaccaro touchingly asks us all to think back to that terrible day and remember that indelible memory from “where we were” when we heard the sad news. His piece is so good, and he is such a solid and consistently superb writer article in and article out, I’ll gladly oblige.
I was a young boy vacationing with my family for our annual week-long trip to the Concord Hotel. You remember…the resort up in the Catskills on Kiamesha Lake? Yeah, the place that built “The Monster” Golf Course and blew Grossinger’s to hell, that’s the one. We were having Saturday brunch in the back door downstairs dining room so as to bolt out the door to the waiting shuttle to go play golf when the news came over the TV.
I have been a lifelong Yankee hater, but like any true fan, there are moments when I hate the player and moments when I only hate the Pinstripes. You could not dislike affable, clutch Thurman Munson any more than you can’t dislike Jeter, Torre, Tino M., Bernie or Pettitte. You know who I mean, the guys who epitomize Yankee class.
Of course, Steinbrenner himself inspires enough hate for an entire sports nation, but there’s nothing to be done.
The loss of Munson united fans across the sports spectrum in respect and admiration for the man. It’s nice to see the same with Lidle.
And so, if there is any way to soften the blow of such a terrible loss, it is by accentuating the positive in life. Instead of being only saddened, lets take a moment and hold up two men for their contributions and good deeds.
Lidle was a courageous voice and correspondingly took brave, bold actions. He died as he lived. That commands respect. Via con dios.
It’s also time to honor Mike Vaccaro, a young rising star of a writer who’s greatest attribute is his ability to reflect the values of the Great American Sportsman (thats Hominus Sporticus Americanum for those of you scoring at home). Melding the same respect for the spirit if the game as the oldschool greats with an observant, passionate and accurate voice, Vaccaro is a great read day-in-and-day-out, yet he remains the same humble, likeable and accessible young guy he was when he started. When you read him, you can’t help but say, “Exactly…that’s exactly how I feel.” When other networks and papers disenfranchise the fan and lionize the criminal and obstreperous element, Vaccaro grounds us in sanity and reason. We can’t ask more from a sportswriter…and we should demand no less.
Mike sets a great example, not just on a sad say like today, but everyday. That’s why he makes The Honor Roll, that short list of people who by hardwork and perseverence make this world a better place in their respective ways. Who else is on the Honor Roll and what did they do to deserve it? Click here and here and here. They’ll keep doing superhuman things from time to time, and I’ll tell you about them.
By the way, to “give credit where it is due” ESPN has done a phenomenal job getting video and information on this tragedy. We skewer them here when they make the game lowest common denominator, but they were excellent journalists last night and acquired the fastest information on both the tragedy and on Lidle’s life. We didn’t need wall-to-wall, but they were “the fastest with the mostest” last night.