Yanks honor Lidle, welcome back announcer Murcer
NEW YORK -- Even though Cory Lidle spent only a short time with the New York Yankees, he was a big part of Opening Day 2007.
With his family watching from the field, the pitcher was honored with a video tribute Monday before his wife and 6-year-old son threw out ceremonial first pitches.
On an emotional afternoon, the Yankees also welcomed back longtime player and broadcaster Bobby Murcer, who is fighting cancer. In addition, they held a moment of silence for former star Hank Bauer and baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, both of whom died recently.
Lidle's parents and twin brother also stood near the Yankees' dugout as public address announcer Bob Sheppard said, "Now pitching for the Yankees, No. 30, Cory Lidle."
The 34-year-old right-hander was killed in a plane crash Oct. 11 in New York after finishing last season with the Yankees. His locker at Yankee Stadium will remain unoccupied all season, and the team is wearing black armbands on their jerseys in memory of him.
"We all certainly appreciate the fact that they did that," said Lidle's brother, Kevin. "It means a lot to everybody. It signifies Cory Lidle and what he's done in baseball and basically everybody who has ever known him or whose life he has touched -- they will remember him by that band."
Lidle's wife, Melanie, and son, Christopher, were greeted outside the clubhouse by Yankees slugger Jason Giambi, a longtime friend and high school teammate. Giambi escorted them toward the mound after pregame introductions and they received a loud ovation from the sellout crowd.
Both made accurate tosses -- Christopher with his left arm.
"I am very honored to be here," a composed Melanie Lidle said as she walked into Yankee Stadium wearing a No. 30 pin on her blue Yankees cap.
The entire tribute left Lidle's family -- and at least a few fans -- choked up.
"Getting down on the field and seeing that memorial that they had was kind of rough, kind of touching, a little bit of everything," Kevin Lidle said. "It made you happy, it made you sad. Got some tears out of me, but that's OK."
Lidle's family stayed for the game and watched from a suite.
The Yankees acquired Lidle in late July as part of a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies. He went 4-3 with a 5.16 ERA in 10 games, including nine starts, for New York.
"We didn't get to know Cory very well," manager Joe Torre said Sunday. "He was a good teammate for everybody.
"Cory's life, at such a young age, to be snuffed out like that, it just slaps you around a little bit."
Murcer, a fan favorite, was back at the ballpark and in good spirits. He had surgery Dec. 28 to remove a malignant brain tumor and recently underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which caused him to lose his hair.
"I feel terrific. I really do. My strength is pretty much all the way back right now," Murcer said, seated next to his wife, Kay.
Murcer received hugs from Yogi Berra and Alex Rodriguez, among others, in the clubhouse before the game.
"It's hard to miss an Opening Day. I haven't missed one in I can't tell you how long," Murcer said. "Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, I just think it's one of the most special days that you can have in baseball."
Murcer popped into the YES Network broadcast booth for some air time and was shown on the big video board in right-center field. He received a huge ovation from the crowd, which chanted "Bobby Murcer! Bobby Murcer!" Yankees players tipped their caps from the top step of the dugout.
"It's so overwhelming, it really brings tears to your eyes. If anybody can get well because of that, I'm well already," Murcer said. "Who can miss opening day at Yankee Stadium? I certainly didn't want to miss this one."
Murcer is eager to resume broadcasting regularly as soon as possible. He travels back and forth from his home in Oklahoma to Houston every month for cancer treatment.
"I'm ready to go. I can't tell you I know everything about baseball right now, but I can make it up like I always do," he said on the air. "The thing you miss is the camaraderie. I was hoping to be able to get down to spring training, that just didn't work out. This is the next best thing. We just decided about three days ago to come up here."
And Murcer appreciates all the get-well wishes he's received.
"I actually got a lot of letters from Red Sox fans, so I knew we were doing good," he said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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