Grand Cards: The Time Has Passed

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Time Has Passed

The news that Jose Lima--"Lima Time"--passed away yesterday took me surprise while I was drinking my coffee this morning. How old was he? Was he sick? Accident?

Or how about a terribly sad situation in which things feel wrong and you die in front of your wife:
The cause of death was ruled a heart attack, his wife, Dorca Astacio, told espndeportes.com.

"Jose was complaining while sleeping and I just thought he was having a nightmare," Astacio told the site. "I called the paramedics, but they couldn't help him."

He was 37 Years Old.

I remember Jose Lima pretty vividly. When I was a kid my baseball team used to go to games at Tiger Stadium and we would get there really early and go down to the dugouts and try to talk to the players. This was, of course, the mid-90s when nobody went to Tigers games and player access was easy to come by because of it.

Anyway, at this one game we got the attention of Jose Lima in the dugout, and although he didn't sign for us he reached into the HUGE team box of Bazooka Gum and handed us each a pack.

As if I didn't already want to be a Major Leaguer, I now knew that they had unlimited access to enormous boxes of gum in the dugout.

1996 Topps #366 Jose Lima

This 1996 card was the first Topps card of Lima as a Tiger. He was shipped off to Houston as part of a massive trade and went on to have his best years--winning 21 games in 1999--and became one of a list of players that we saw the Tigers get rid of, only to watch them become pretty decent players elsewhere.

The Tigers actually traded to get Lima back in 2001, which meant that we got this in 2002:
2002 Topps#452 Jose Lima

As you can see, his best years were pretty clearly behind him at that point:


Still, he would go on to play in the majors until 2006 and had an excellent season for the Dodgers in 2004, going 13-5 with a 4.07 ERA.

The timing of his death comes on the heels of this:
In 2004, as a member of the Dodgers, Lima fired a five-hit shutout against the Cardinals for L.A.'s only win in the National League Division Series. Lima remained a beloved figure in Los Angeles, often attending Dodgers games. He took in Friday's Interleague game against the Tigers with his son Jose Jr.

The fans gave him a standing ovation on Friday.

Only two current Tigers played with Lima in Detroit--Brandon Inge and Ramon Santiago--and Lima's death clearly shook the latter, who was just breaking into the big leagues when he was welcomed with open arms by his fellow Dominican:

"When I got to the big leagues, he bought me a custom-made suit, like immediately," Santiago said. "He said, 'What do you need?' I said, 'I don't have a suit.' He said, 'There's my tailor.' He bought like five custom-made, expensive suits from his tailor."

"I still have them. This is one of those."

By pure coincidence, because Sunday was a travel day for the Tigers, Santiago was wearing one of those suits Sunday morning when he learned of Lima's death. He was also wearing an emotionally shaken face as he entered the clubhouse.

--snip--

"He always took care of rookies," Santiago said. "I will remember him because of the way he treated me. ... He was like a dad for me here. He was the one to take care of me. It's very sad."

It is very sad. Lima was one of those players that you always saw on sportscenter goofing around in the dugout and frequently had a smile on his face. He was one of those good natured players that you would always just hear stories about. He certainly had a joy and passion for the game--an MLB.com article drops the requisite "fiery"--which is how he will be remembered best.

He was no Hall of Famer, no All-Star or "Face of the Franchise." Lima wasn't readily identifiable with any single franchise. He was a bit of a vagabond, an otherwise nondescript journeyman who had a couple good years the way they all seem to. But everybody knew Jose Lima. He was Lima Time. He was baseball-as-fun. He was Manny being Manny before Manny was being Manny.

He was the guy who gave a kid a pack of gum from the dugout.

Rest In Peace, Jose.

2 comments:

  1. I posted this over on Sooz's, but I also was sad to here about Lima's death. Although I was never connected with him through teams, I remember reading about Lima trying to pitch his way back in the majors through independent leagues. It's a shame he never made it back.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I didn't have any experiences with him and wish I did. He seemed like a rare character that people enjoyed to be around.

    37. Yikes. 67 seems young these days.

    Sad for his family.

    ReplyDelete