Ghost of Munson in the Lidle Plane Crash


Any thoughts that the Yankees’ first-round exit to Detroit represented a “tragic” end to their season were instantly trivialized today with the news that Yanks pitcher Cory Lidle was the pilot of the twin-engine **Cessna that crashed into an Upper East Side apartment building today, killing all on board (see slideshow, “New Yorkers Staring Up“).

(While reports are still sketchy, authorities have confirmed Lidle’s death, and at least one TV news station has reported that the pitcher’s passport was found at the crash site.)

Even for a team used to bizarre plot twists, the news of Lidle’s death was steeped in too many ironies to count. There is, of course, the ghost of Thurman Munson, the iconic Yankees catcher who perished when his own Cessna crashed in an Ohio field in August of 1979. There is the fact that Lidle had drawn media attention earlier this week for suggesting that the team wasn’t prepared for its series with the Tigers—statements that Lidle immediately tried to retract, but apparently had been caught on tape by numerous reporters. And there was the eerie New York Times article that ran last month, citing Lidle’s assurances that though he’d only been flying it for a few months, the plane was completely safe:

“The whole plane has a parachute on it,” Lidle said. “Ninety-nine percent of pilots that go up never have engine failure, and the 1 percent that do usually land it. But if you’re up in the air and something goes wrong, you pull that parachute, and the whole plane goes down slowly.”

(Image of Lidle via

(Image of Munson via

And Lidle’s flight instructor’s insistence that anyone who can pitch before 50,000 fans can handle himself behind the controls of an airplane:

“On the mound, he has to hold in all the emotions and keep completely focused. It’s the same thing flying: If you’re in an emergency, you can’t waste any time worrying. You have to take command of the situation. A lot of people I fly with don’t have that mentality. Cory does.”

As is so often the case, when someone dies tragically, those who loved them, or only admired them from afar from a bleacher seat, are left speechless, without any words to give voice to the sense of grief. (And it’s worth noting, of course, that the grief would have been just as real had someone less famous been inside that cockpit—it just would have touched fewer people.) Lidle didn’t spend much time on the mound in New York, pitching just one rookie season for the Mets and 10 games for the Yankees. But whatever caused his plane to veer into a Manhattan apartment building on a rainy October afternoon, as a human being and a sometime hero, Lidle is just as deserving of the words that Phil Rizzuto spoke on the air after another Yankee fell from the sky 27 summers ago:

“If you keep thinking about what happened, and you can’t understand it, that’s what really drives you to despair. Faith. You gotta have faith. You know, they say time heals all wounds. And I don’t quite agree with that a hundred percent. It gets you to cope with wounds. You carry them for the rest of your life.”


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