I remember the summer of 1999 so vividly. I had one of my first jobs that summer after just getting my drivers license. I took care of a private estate, mowing and landscaping. I had an old walkman radio that picked up AM stations pretty good; and if I turned up the volume all the way the headphones I could even hear the radio while riding around the loud mower all day long. On the days when it rained I’d get through hours of weeding and mulching just fine by picking up the Jim Rome show. After three hours of Rome, it hardly seemed like I’d done a days work.
That summer was also the height of “Lima Time”. Jose Lima
would win 21 games that summer for the Houston Astros, following up a season in which he went 16-7. He was a frequent guest on Rome’s show, and by the way he talked I was certain this Lima guy was a power pitcher. Little did I know, and as I would later learn, Lima was a guy who relied heavily on his change-up and confidence on the mound. His fastball had little to do with his success.
That was also the summer of the 1999 Reds, so I followed everyone in the NL Central extra close. They hung two losses on Lima
that summer in facing him three times. It was a memorable and special time of being a young baseball fan.
Last night when I logged on ESPN.com and saw the top headline was Jose Lima dying of a heart attack at age 37
, I was pretty shocked. Talk about going way too soon. It’s just something that doesn’t make sense. To think just a decade ago the guy was coming off an All-Star season trying to establish himself as one of the game’s finest pitchers.
The guy understood about being an entertainer as well as an athlete. He understood that the game was about the fans. That’s probably what Lima-time
was all about to begin with.
Rest in peace, Jose. The Lord just gained one heck of a fourth starter in his rotation. Gone far too soon.