Cory Lidle dies in plane crash

Jason Seher (’07)/ For Eastside

Former Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cory Lidle died when a plane he was piloting crashed into a fifty story high-rise on Manhattan’s Upper East Side Wednesday afternoon.New York authorities have said that the small four-seat Cirrus SR20 plane Lidle piloted departed from Teterboro Airport in Northern New Jersey around 2:30 pm. The aircraft slammed into an apartment in the Belaire Condominiums at 524 E. 72nd Street near the East River only fifteen minutes later. Within minutes after the crash, more than 150 firefighters rushed to the scene to extinguish the raging fire on the 39th and 40th floors of the building, a consequence of the crash. The thick black spoke billowing from the building created a scene eerily reminiscent of September 11th.

However, city, state, and federal officials quickly dismissed the possibility that the crash was a terrorist attack. Yolanda Clark, a Homeland Security Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman, said that “all indications are that [this was] an unfortunate accident.”

A Federal Aviation Administration official reported after the crash that the small single-engine plane was registered to Lidle and that the former pitcher’s passport was found on 71st street, beneath the crash site, by emergency responders.

CNN and ABC News sources have revealed that Lidle’s plane appeared to take a routine flight pattern down the Hudson River, circling the Statue of Liberty, and then moving up the East River. Radar contact held intact until the plane reached 59th street when the plane dropped below an altitude of four hundred feet. Though the pilot may have issued a distress call as the plane was going down, nothing can be definitively confirmed at this time.

Merely hours removed from the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board, the government body charged with investigating aviation accidents, has taken steps to investigate the crash, announcing that a team from Washington, D.C. had been assembled and left for New York City. While speculation concerning how a plane could get so close to Manhattan after the September 11th attacks runs rampant, the FAA placed a one-mile flight restriction around the site of the crash.

In the immediate aftermath of the accident, crowds of people gathered beneath the hazy smoke filled street, staring at the clouds pouring from the red brick Belaire building, calling loved ones frantically on their cell phones to make sure they were alright. In a press conference, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that preliminary reports by the New York Police and Fire Departments in coordination with the Office of Emergency Management indicate that two people, Lidle, and one other passenger, presumably a flight instructor, died in the crash.

Largely an outcast in the Major Leagues, Cory Lidle routinely changed addresses in his Major League career, swapping organizations seven times in only nine years. Yet, he remained a staple in the Major Leagues after breaking into the Majors with the Mets in 1997. Lidle compiled a win-loss record of 82-72 with an earned run average of 4.57. During his time with the Phillies, the pitcher finessed his way to an 18-13 record with, including three shutouts in 247 innings of work. Lidle, who was traded to the Yankees along with rightfielder Bobby Abreu, relied on his knowledge of hitters to navigate through major league lineups, compensating for his lack of natural ability by employing his acute baseball intelligence.

This past offseason, Lidle earned his pilot’s license and, prior to today, had logged under four hundred hours in the air.

In a written statement, the often outspoken owner of the Yankees, George Steinbrenner offered his “deep condolences and prayers to his wife, Melanie, and son, Christopher, on their enormous loss.” Steinbrenner also called the crash “a terrible and shocking tragedy that has stunned the entire Yankees organization.”

Reverberations of the tragedy are being felt throughout the entire baseball community. The ESPN broadcasts have been littered with former teammates and coaches of Lidle’s expressing their complete befuddlement at the heartrending event, and that Lidle’s loss will be one that deeply impacts all of Major League Baseball. While executive vice president of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, stated that neither of Wednesday night’s championship series games would be postponed because of Lidle’s death, players will undoubtedly be playing with heavy hearts tonight, and throughout the remainder of the playoffs.

Lidle, 34, leaves behind his wife, Melanie, and six year old son, Christopher.