Friday marks 20 years — Can it be that long? — since Cleveland Indians pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews died in a boating accident that also injured teammate Bob Ojeda. It happened on Little Lake Nellie in Florida, within sight of Crews' home and about 40 miles from Indians camp, in 1993, at Winter Haven. Nobody that knew the ballplayers would ever be the same.
MLB.com columnist Anthony Castrovince should be pleased with his respectful feature, which was written as a letter to Olin and Crews, who left behind a wife and three kids apiece, plus more family, friends and teammates. How have they all coped? Some have done better than others but, on the whole, pretty well. Time might not heal all wounds, but it does help remind those left behind to keep going.
Patti Olin remarried and divorced, and Laurie Crews never remarried, but they raised their kids to be amazing successes in life that have many traits belonging to their respective fathers. Of course, there's also an inescapable sadness and emptiness. Patti Olin-Winter lives on the opposite coast, in Oregon, and won't go back to Little Lake Nellie. Laurie Crews lives in the same house that overlooks the dock where the accident occurred. As Castrovince writes, everybody deals with these things in their own way.
Olin was the Indians' sidearm/submarining closer, establishing himself in 1992 with 29 saves and a 2.34 ERA at age 26. Crews was five years older, having logged 423 career innings as a setup man, all with the Dodgers — he helped them win the World Series in 1988 — before signing a free-agent contract with the Indians. He would be 51. Ojeda, the accident's lone survivor at age 35, made nearly 300 career starts with the Red Sox, Mets, Dodgers, Indians and Yankees. He also won a World Series, with the '86 Mets.
Here's an excerpt from Castrovince's post:
Twenty years later, the waters of Little Lake Nellie are shallow. The dock, since rebuilt, extends across dry land. What happened in the spring of '93 could not happen now.
If only the lake had been this shallow that night.
Tim, you could be casting in those husband-and-wife bass fishing tournaments you and Laurie always talked about. Steve, you could have found that wide-open space where you'd ride four-wheelers and snowmobiles into the gloaming. Maybe you'd both be coaching some local team. Maybe you'd both barely remember that brief period in which baseball allowed your lives to intersect.
The thoughts of if only nearly ate Bobby Ojeda alive. They compelled him to fly to Stockholm, spontaneously, in the aftermath of the accident, not telling a soul where he was headed or what he was doing there. He thought about swallowing a fistful of pills and exiting the hell of reliving the incident in his head and wondering why he was the only one spared. Thankfully, your friend and teammate snapped out of it, came home, got psychiatric treatment, made a brief return to the mound, eventually became a pitching coach and, later, a Mets analyst for SportsNet New York. He politely declines requests to speak about the accident and the aftermath. Everybody deals with these things in their own way.
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Castrovince also posted video interviews with the widows. Of course it's sad, but you can tell they have handled life, and the curveball it handed them, the best they could.
It might make you cry (if you haven't started already), but the entire story is well worth your time.
[Editor's note: An earlier version of the post said incorrectly that Laurie Crews had remarried.]
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