José Fernández’s death is MLB’s latest tragedy
America’s pastime has lived its share of tragedy over the years but Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández’s death in a boating accident feels different.
Maybe it was his raw talent and potential. At 24, he was the ace of the Marlins franchise, a 2013 National League Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star. This season he was 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA and 253 strikeouts.
There was his rags-to-riches story. How he went from selling vegetables for $4 a day in his native Santa Clara, Cuba, to become a beloved and respected figure in Miami’s exile community.
He was jailed as a teenager after one of his four attempts to flee the communist island.
During his final attempt, Fernández, then 15, jumped in the water to rescue someone who had fallen off the boat. He only realized it was his mother, Maritza, when he reached her in the ocean.
“If that does not leave a mark on you for the rest of your life, I don’t know what will,” he told the Miami Herald in 2013.
His sudden death — Fernández had been slated to pitch tonight in Miami — has stunned the baseball world.
“The magnanimity of his personality transcended culture, religion and race,” Marlins President David Samson said.
“His story is representative of a story of hope, and of love and of faith, and no one will ever let that story die.”
Here are some other big-league players who died before their time:
Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle
Lidle, 34, and his flight instructor were killed in October 11, 2006 when his small plane struck a high-rise apartment building in Manhattan.
The pitcher’s passport was found on the street, as was his his body and that of his flight instructor, according to first responders.
There was a distress call from the pilot involving a problem with fuel, government sources close to the investigation told CNN at the time.
Lidle was 4-3 for the Yankees, who acquired the right-hander in a midseason trade with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Lidle, a nine-year veteran, was in the last year of his contract. He pitched 1 ⅓ innings and gave up three runs in the Yankees’ season-ending loss to Detroit in the American League Division Series just days before his death.
Yankees catcher Thurman Munson
Before Lidle, the Yankees lost one of their most beloved players and a former team captain in a plane crash.
Catcher Thurman Munson, the 1976 American League MVP and a 9-year veteran of the Yankees, was killed on August 2, 1979, in a crash as he practiced takeoffs and landings in his new Cessna Citation jet at the Akron-Canton Airport in Ohio.
Munson remains the only Yankee to win both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards with the franchise.
He lived for the postseason — batting .357 in 30 playoff games.
Munson’s No. 15 jersey was retired by the late team owner George Steinbrenner, and a plaque honoring him was added in 1980 to Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.
Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente
Clemente boarded a small plane loaded with earthquake relief in his native Puerto Rico on December 31, 1972. The plane was headed to Nicaragua when it crashed just off the coast of San Juan. His body was never recovered. He was 38.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973 when the mandatory five-year waiting period was waived during a special election.
Clemente played 18 big league seasons. He was a four-time batting champ, earned a dozen Golden Gloves, appeared in a dozen All-Star games and was National League MVP in 1966 and MVP of the 1971 World Series.
Off the field, Clemente was known for his charitable work and devotion to his family.
Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart
Adenhart, 22, was among three people killed in a car crash in Fullerton, California, in April 9, 2009.
One person was arrested in connection with the three-vehicle accident in Fullerton, southeast of Los Angeles. Witnesses said a red minivan ran a red light and struck two vehicles at an intersection, according to police.
Adenhart had just earned a spot in the Angels rotation after recording a 3-0 record and a 3.12 ERA with 18 strikeouts over six starts in spring training.
“Nick was just 22, with a wonderful life and career ahead of him,” former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said at the time.
Cleveland Indians pitchers Tim Crews and Steve Olin
On March 22, 1993, Cleveland Indians pitchers Tim Crews, Steve Olin and Bobby Ojeda spent a day together at Crews’ home on Lake Little Nellie in Tavares, Florida.
Crews and Olin died when the bass boat that Crews was piloting crashed into a dock. Ojeda suffered head injuries but survived. He retired the following season.