May 24, 2010
It was also a humid Sunday in Chicago on that day, and the Astros and Cubs were locked in a race for the NL Central. Sammy Sosa(notes) was battling Mark McGwire in the chase for No. 62, and the Chicago Air and Water Show was in town. Planes kept buzzing the ballpark and Steve Trachsel(notes), the Cubs' starter, was thrown off his game when a strike to Brad Ausmus(notes) was nullified because of the boom from a passing plane. If Lima, who started for the Astros, had any objection to the show above, I don't remember it.
After scalping a pair of tickets for a total of $10, a buddy and I watched the whole scene from the farthest left-field corner of Wrigley Field's upper deck. The seats weren't good, but they did give us a clear view of Sosa depositing the only two mistakes that Lima made onto Waveland Avenue. Both blasts came with two outs in the inning and Sosa and Lima — both old pals from the Dominican — would soon have to deny charges that a pitch in the eighth inning was grooved with the Astros leading 13-2. Sosa hit it for his 51st homer of the year.
I felt bad for first thinking about that little controversial footnote in that crazy summer, especially after coming home to read of the strong bonds that Lima formed with fans in Houston, Kansas City and Los Angeles. He also seemed like one heckuva great dad to little Jose Lima, and it's heartbreaking to think that his son won't have his biggest hero around anymore. The baseball world will also miss "Lima Time" big time and, with that in mind, I've rounded up a few of the best Lima reflections I've read since his passing.
Richard Justice, Houston Chronicle: If you ever saw Lima around town, you understand. He'd have a cup of coffee or a cold beer with you. He might just buy, he'd laugh, and by the end of the evening, there'd be a crowd gathered around. He reminded us of a time when professional athletes really were members of their community, when they didn't set themselves apart. Lima was with the Astros for just 4 1/2 seasons, but he was one of us in every sense of the word.
Joe Posnanski: Over time, most of the people around baseball came to understand that Jose Lima was just having fun. That's all. Baseball was fun. Life was fun. As he would say to friends and strangers and kids who wanted autographs: "What time is it?" The correct answer was "Lima Time." ... Even if you lost, it was still Lima Time.
Landon Evanson, Bugs & Cranks: When Lima shutout the St. Louis Cardinals on five hits in the 2004 National League Division Series, he did so with not only 55,992 Dodgers fans behind him, but fans of the game everywhere, because deep down, we love the every man, the guy who loves the game every bit as much as we do, but who had just enough ability to reach the ultimate.
Ben Shpigel, New York Times: His voice was deep and raspy, and he spoke at about a thousand words a minute. In interviews, he would talk and talk and then, at the end, say, "You understand?" And then he would tilt his head and laugh, knowing that you probably didn't.
Phil Gurnee, True Blue LA: Until Jose Lima joined the Dodgers I considered him a showboating fool, who was all about public relations. In 2004 with the change in ownership I delved into buying season tickets, and ended up right next to the Dodger bullpen staring down into that strange world of hierarchies ... I wasn't happy that Lima had made the team in the spring of 2004, he was to me someone who should be pitching for a losing program not the Dodger program. I also have never been a fan of fake showmanship, and at the beginning Lima seemed all about fake showmanship. Later as I settled in to my season tickets Lima would prove me wrong in every which way.
Tim Brown, Yahoo! Sports: Players on the field for batting practice yelled his name and waved. He smiled and pointed back to them, then gestured to the young man beside him, "My son," he said, and the boy too would smile and wave. The crowd of friends around Jose Lima grew, just as it always did, him laughing and them laughing, too, because that's what it was to be with him ... Not two days later, (Dan) Evans was on the phone in a hospital corridor, unable to make the slightest sense of Lima's passing.
Vin Scully: As a little boy I always heard that death would come like a thief in the night. And for Jose Lima, he passed away in his sleep last night. He will be sorely missed, not just for his ability to play baseball. He was fun to be around. He lightened the mood, he made the moment so much nicer.