In moving ceremony, Yankees salute Lidle

It was a day of sadness as the pitcher, who died in a plane crash, was remembered.

Posted: April 03, 2007

NEW YORK - The players stood attentively in the New York Yankees dugout, with their eyes focused on the big screen in center field, many crying while the memory of their former teammate was replayed.

The 105th season of Yankees baseball began yesterday at Yankee Stadium with a tribute to Cory Lidle, who died in a plane crash on Oct. 11 in Manhattan at age 34.

Lidle was 26-20 in parts of three seasons with the Phillies before being acquired by the Yankees on July 30.

A three-minute video tribute to Lidle was presented on the screen, with former teammates talking about his character.

"First and foremost, he was a great father and a good husband," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "And second, he was a good baseball player."

After the tribute, Lidle's widow, Melanie, and her son, Christopher, both came on to the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The two were escorted by Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi, who with Lidle, attended South Hills High School in West Covina, Calif.

"It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do," Giambi said after he went 2 for 5 with three RBIs in a 9-5 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. "I was glad to be part of it and to be there for the family."

Also in attendance were Cory Lidle's parents, Doug and Lisa, and his twin brother, Kevin.

Both Melanie Lidle and her son wore Yankees caps, and each would have made Cory proud. Melanie, a righthander, and Chris, a lefthander, both threw perfect pitches and then received huge applause from the sellout crowd of 55,035.

Before leaving the field, Melanie was approached by Bobby Abreu, who was included in the trade last July from the Phillies to the Yankees.

"I went to her first of all to say hello and give her the best support and say how sorry I am," Abreu said. "He was one of my teammates three years ago and I came here in a trade with him, and it is so hard to know that he is not with us."

Afterward, Melanie Lidle declined comment, but Kevin Lidle spoke briefly on behalf of the family about the truly emotional pregame ceremony. His only request was that no television cameras tape the interview.

"Getting down on the field and seeing that memorial they had was kind of rough, kind of touching, a little bit of everything. It made me happy and made me sad," he said. "It got some tears out of me, but that is OK."

One thing that made him happy was watching his sister-in-law and nephew throw out the first pitches.

"Melanie and Christopher throwing out the first pitch, they both threw a strike and that was cool," he said.

As another tribute to Cory Lidle, the Yankees are wearing black armbands.

"It's something they didn't have to do, and we all certainly appreciate the fact that they did it," Kevin Lidle said. "It means a lot to everybody. It signifies Cory Lidle, and what he has done in baseball, and basically everybody who has ever known him, whose lives he has touched, they will remember him by that band."

This was a day that clearly illustrated how precious life is.

"It is rough, but that is part of life," Kevin Lidle said. "You have to go on and appreciate the memories and thank God we are all here, because it's certainly a blessing that we are all here."

While not needing any extra incentive on opening day, the players clearly were inspired by the presence of the Lidle family.

"Of course we wanted to win the game for him," said Abreu, who was 2 for 5 with two runs scored and an RBI. "It's a big day for his family and all of the memories, and you don't want to lose the game."


Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.

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