Thu, Oct 19, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Friends, family bid emotional farewell to pitcher Cory Lidle

AP , COVINA, CALIFORNIA

Three small planes flew over mourners at a memorial on Tuesday for Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, an emotional reminder to his family, friends and teammates that he died doing something he loved.

Following Lidle's funeral, hundreds of mourners did something else he enjoyed; they sat down to a luncheon of burgers, his favorite fast food.

The 34-year-old pitcher and his flight instructor, Tyler Stanger, were killed last Wednesday when Lidle's plane crashed into a Manhattan high-rise during an aerial tour of the city.

"Everybody was doing fine until the planes went over," Randy Wolf, Lidle's former teammate on the Philadelphia Phillies, said after the funeral.

Tearful

Emotions ran high among hundreds of mourners during a 45-minute outdoor service. Men wiped away tears from behind dark glasses, and knots of family members shared long embraces near Lidle's casket, which was flanked by large color photos of the pitcher. Several people wore buttons with a photo of Lidle pitching and the words, "Forever in our hearts."

"I was one guy who would have gone up with him," said Phillies catcher Mike Lieberthal, whose plan to fly with Lidle during spring training never came off.

"It's just crazy to believe how something like that could happen," he said.

Lidle's wife, Melanie, briefly came out to thank those who had helped since her husband's death. After thanking her sister, the Yankees and Major League Baseball, she dissolved into heaving sobs and was helped away.

The couple's 6-year-old son, Christopher, had hugged his mother during the service.

Among those at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Lidle's hometown were Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson and a contingent of Yankees: captain Derek Jeter, former high school teammate Jason Giambi, Jaret Wright, manager Joe Torre and general manager Brian Cashman.

Since Lidle's death, Torre said he has replayed the same image in his mind from New York's loss to Detroit in the AL division series.

"I go out to the mound and gave him the ball and I went out to the mound and took the ball away for the last time," Torre said. "We play a game and we think how important it is until you face something like this."

Investigation

Lidle had been a licensed pilot for less than a year. Stanger, 26, was a veteran pilot and teacher who ran a tiny flight school in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles. Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the crash or who was at the controls.

At the reception, family and friends lined up outside a semitrailer for burgers from In-N-Out, the family owned Southern California chain.

"He was always bugging me to get him an endorsement," said Jordan Feagan, Lidle's agent and friend of 14 years.

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