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Teammates Remember Jose Lima

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Former Dodgers right-handed pitcher Jose Lima in his last public appearance at Dodger Stadium Friday night. Photo used by permission/Jon SooHoo

Former Dodgers right-handed pitcher Jose Lima in his last public appearance at Dodger Stadium Friday night. Photo used by permission/Jon SooHoo
October 9, 2004 is a day most Dodger fans will never forget. After the team had won the NL West title for the first time since 1995, they had yet to win a postseason game since winning the World Series against the Oakland Athletics in 1988. And just like in 1988 when they had Kirk Gibson to be the emotional leader for the team, “Lima Time” was instrumental in the Dodgers’ run to the postseason in 2004.

“Everybody who knew him had fun with him,” Dodgers’ reliever Jeff Weaver said. Weaver was a teammate of Lima’s in 2004 and in 2002 with the Detroit Tigers. “He was the life of the clubhouse and kept everyone entertained and having fun. People who knew him are going to miss him.

And on that October day in Game 3 of the National League Divisional Series against the St. Louis Cardinals with the Dodgers trailing two games to none, Lima was out there facing off against Matt Morris. Against a hard hitting Cardinals team that had crushed the Dodgers 8-3 in each of the first two games in St. Louis, all Lima did was pitch a complete game five-hit shutout for the Dodgers 4-0 victory.

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Although the Dodgers lost 6-2 the next day giving the Cardinals the series win, Lima went down in Dodger history as the pitcher who gave the team their first playoff victory since 1988.

“He went out there, won a ballgame for us and did everything he could to help the team win,” Weaver recalled.

Jose Desiderio Rodriguez Lima spent 13 seasons in the Major Leagues with the Detroit Tigers (1994-96; 2001-02), where he was first signed as an amateur free agent in 1989, Houston Astros (1997-2001), Kansas City Royals (2003, 2005), Dodgers (2004) and New York Mets (2006). Lima was an All Star with the Astros in 1999 when he had a 21-10 record and a 3.58 ERA and came in fourth place in the National League Cy Young Award voting.

“It’s very shocking,” Brad Ausmus said who played with Lima in Detroit in 1996 and in Houston where they were traded together from 1997-1998 and again in 2001. “Playing with him, you come to realize the energy he has on the mound isn’t a false persona. That’s Jose Lima - he acts like that all the time. He’s always happy-go-lucky, jumping around, joking. That’s who he is. There’s nothing fake about him. Even on days he wasn’t pitching he was like that.”

Even opposing managers knew of Lima’s joie de vivre despite sitting in the opposing dugout.

“The energy and the fun he had was infectious,” manager Joe Torre said of Lima. Even though Torre never managed Lima, he knew enough about him being in the opposing dugout. “You don’t know if he had confidence in himself or he was trying to convince himself and everybody else that he did. He was a showman, hotdog, but he’d win games. A lot of times it maybe wasn’t his ability but his ability to will himself to do it. And talking himself into it I think he sort of intimidated the opposition, too.”

Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt released a statement upon learning of Lima’s death.

“We are shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic loss of Jose Lima. Though he was taken from us way too soon, he truly lived his life to the fullest and his personality was simply unforgettable. He had the ability to light up a room and that’s exactly what he did every time I saw him. His memorable contributions to the Dodgers in 2004 and throughout baseball will always be remembered. Our deepest condolences and prayers go out to his family during this extremely difficult time.”

Lima had rejoined the Dodgers within the past month as a member of the Dodgers Alumni Association. He was preparing to open a youth baseball academy this summer here in LA and was at the Stadium Friday night to talk about having his band perform at a Viva Los Dodgers event later this summer.

Lima passed away from a heart attack this morning in his Los Angeles home with his wife Dorca Astacio at his side. He was 37.

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