Lima one of a kind

Terry Jones, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:42 AM ET

EDMONTON - EDMONTON - When you live to play baseball and time is up on your career, life should go on.

But time was not only up on Lima Time, as the appearances of one of baseball’s most colourful characters became known. Time also turned out to be up on on Jose Lima’s lifetime, too.

The flamboyant former 21-game winner who pitched in the 1999 All-Star Game, won the Los Angeles Dodgers first playoff game in 16 years and rode the roller-coaster like few others in an up-and-down career that spanned 13 seasons in the big leagues, died Sunday of a massive heart attack.

He was 37.

Lima pitched in the majors for the Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, L.A. Dodgers and New York Mets and finished last season with the Edmonton Capitals.

His best big league season was with the Astros in 1999 when he went 21-10 with a 3.58 earned-run average in 35 starts for the National League Central champions.

Lima was one of those ex-major leaguers who loved the game so much he’d play for nothing. He proved it by winding up his career pitching for Edmonton in independent baseball where the entire team salary cap is less than $100,000.

“You could really tell he loved the game,” said Capitals director of business operations Jordi Weidman.

Enthusiasm

“He was here for all the right reasons and his enthusiasm rubbed off on everyone he met. He gave us a pretty good rendition of O Canada, too. I think he learned it just for that home game when we asked him to sing.”

His death was first revealed by the Aguilas Cibaenas, his Dominican team in winter ball.

“Lima was an exceptional man. This is a great loss for Dominican baseball and the country,” said team president and former Edmonton Trappers manager Winston Llenas.

Few knew Lima better than Capitals manager Brent Bowers, who picked him up from the Long Beach Armada on Aug. 2 last year and watched him post a 1-2 record at the end of the regular season here and 0-1 in the playoffs to complete his career.

“Jose and I went way back”, said Bowers on his cellphone when the Capitals bus pulled into Yuma from Tucson Sunday afternoon, a couple of hours after David Ortiz wrote “R.I.P. Lima” on his cap during a Boston Red Sox game when notified of his death.

“I found out when we got on the bus in Tucson and thought about him the entire trip,” said Bowers.

“We played against each other for six seasons all the way from rookie league ball to the big leagues. We were teammates in winter ball in the Dominican and once went to training camp together with the Astros.

“I managed him and managed against him. And last year when he came to Edmonton he said, ‘I want to come and play for you.’ I was able to make that happen at the end of the season.

“I’m so glad that I did that. It was an honour to work with a true professional.

“He was probably one of a kind. You don’t see a lot of guys like him who go out and sing the national anthem and be so friendly with everybody, but then be all business when he’s out between the lines.

“It was something to watch the players on our team listening to his stories and just dropping from laughing so hard.

“Our guys really enjoyed him and will have good memories of him forever.”

Testimonials

The impact of Lima’s short life and times in baseball was reflected in the number of testimonials pouring in during the time it takes for a bus to travel from Tucson to Yuma.

One of those came from Dodgers manager Joe Torre.

“Horrible news. It’s so sad. It’s a big loss. He was a showman and a hot dog, but he won games. He willed himself to do it. He always had a smile on his face.”

On Friday Lima was introduced between innings of a game to large applause at Dodger Stadium. They loved the guy.

“Just to bring him in here was great because this was a guy who made millions of dollars who had the same intensity he did when I first played against him when he was 18,” said Bowers.

“You don’t find many guys in sport like Jose anymore. He wasn’t a fake. In his heart he still enjoyed putting on the uniform and enjoyed the game of baseball.”

And the last fans who enjoyed seeing him do that were right here.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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