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Oscar Taveras, Cory Lidle, and the difficulties of baseball losing a wonderful player

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Although the baseball community's pain will never truly be able to relate to the kind shared by Taveras's family and friends right now, it was a crushing blow to lose the 22-year-old phenom.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday was an absolutely brutal day for Major League Baseball--there's no way of getting around it. It should have been a joyous occasion, as the Giants and Royals played Game 5 of a tense World Series, one that could end up being just the second Fall Classic to go seven games in the past 11 years. By the early stages of Game 5 though, focus had shifted completely away from this game and to the life of one of the most talented young players in baseball. Soon, it became clear: 22-year-old Cardinals rookie Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend were gone, the fatalities of a rainy car crash in Taveras's native Dominican Republic.

As Giants player and Taveras's close friend Juan Perez noted, the news just didn't seem real. And yet there it was. In the blink of an eye, the third-ranked prospect in Major League Baseball was suddenly no more, and two families dealt with the abrupt and devastating losses of their children. Support and touching tributes to Taveras came flowing in throughout the night, from his teammates and fellow players around the game, MLB itself, the media, and countless other fans. The baseball community can truly be a wonderful face of the game, one that transcends the players themselves. All this support came in for a kid who had only appeared in 87 major league games. Yet in his brief cameo of glory, he offered us these thrilling moments:

Home Run Debut


And that swing... that beautiful swing.

It seems crazy that such an awesome player is gone. Unfortunately, that's where we are at this point, and Taveras's death stirred up some old memories for me of another time when the Yankees were directly affected by the sudden loss of a player. I'm not old enough to have known what it was like for the team to suddenly lose captain Thurman Munson in an awful plane crash back in 1979, though he was my dad's favorite player, and he was absolutely crushed by Munson's passing (as was the team and pretty much the rest of baseball). I distinctly remember Cardinals ace Darryl Kile's heartbreaking death in 2002 and the sudden loss of Angels starter Nick Adenhart in 2009, who like Taveras was also just 22. (These are just a couple of several sad examples.)

As a young Yankees fan though, the moment that sticks out most to me is pitcher Cory Lidle's passing in a plane crash on a Fall afternoon in 2006. YES Network did a moving retrospective on this tragedy the season after:

It was a normal Wednesday afternoon, and I had just gotten out of my car at the mall after school. I checked my phone and saw there was a message from a girl who I was dating at the time, one who was not that interested in baseball. So it only shocked me even more to learn from her that Cory Lidle was in the plane crash I'd heard about earlier that day. Everything stopped. I forgot why I was even at the mall and just returned to my car for a moment so I could hear more about it on the radio. Lidle had literally just been on the mound for the Yankese days ago, in the disappointing ALDS finale against the Tigers. If the powerful lineup had done its job, he would probably have still been alive and preparing for the ALCS against his old team, the Athletics. (Likewise, if the Cardinals had beaten the Giants, Taveras would almost certainly be alive as well.)

Lidle was no star and had been up and down with the Yankees during his half-season with the team as an extra piece acquired from the Phillies in the Bobby Abreu trade robbery. Hell, he didn't pitch well in his one playoff game either, and he was undeservedly shamed for some post-game comments that "Mike and the Mad Dog" didn't like. (Surprise, surprise.) Nonetheless, it was a crushing loss. It didn't seem fathomable that a player could just suddenly die, even though I had remembered it happening with Kile. The fact that it was a plane crash only made it more eerie, given both Munson's passing and former Yankee pitcher Jim Hardin's death in a '91 crash.

It felt like the baseball world just stopped. There were no playoff games that day, but moments of silence were held in Lidle's memory the day each of the League Championship Series began. Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon had both spent time with Lidle on the A's as well as the Yankees, and from interviews, they were visibly affected by the loss. I remember being sad, but happy that Major League Baseball honored his memory. It didn't matter that he was mostly an unknown name to the public; Lidle deserved to be remembered. The next season, the Yankees wore black armbands and gave his widow and son the privilege of throwing out the first pitch of the 2007 season on Opening Day. It was a truly touching moment, and one that I'll never forget, seeing Giambi out there giving the Lidle family a hug like so many of us fans wanted to do as well.

As fans, we can barely feel a fraction of the loss felt by friends and families of these people, but we clearly haven't forgotten Cory Lidle, Darryl Kile, Thurman Munson, or anyone else lost in such a tragic manner. We'll clearly never forget you, Oscar Taveras. Thank you so much for what joy you brought us in your too-brief time on this Earth.