For those of you who haven’t heard, former big league pitcher Jose Lima has passed away at age 37, the result of an apparent heart attack.
Lima was perhaps one of the most intriguing characters of baseball’s most recent generation. A right-handed starting pitcher who possessed a none-too-overpowering fastball, Lima was a passionate representative of the game who was known for his antics off the field and emotion on it.
The Dominican Republic native burst onto the scene in the late ’90s with the Houston Astros. Over a two-year span from 1998 to 1999, Lima posted a 37-18 record, maintained a 3.64 cumulative ERA, and struck out 356 batters. He also made his one and only All-Star appearance in ’99.
In the following years, Lima would never come close to producing those numbers again, and as a result he bounced around from team to team. Over the course of his 13-year major league career, Lima pitched for the Detroit Tigers on three separate occasions; the Astros for two stints; the Kansas City Royals for two stints; the Los Angeles Dodgers; and the New York Mets. Perhaps it was a testament to his personality that three of the teams he played with invited him back for a second (or in the case of Detroit, third) go-round with the organization.
Nicknamed “Lima Time” for reasons only truly understood by the namesake, himself, Lima enjoyed a brief resurgence in 2004, while a member of the Dodgers. He went 13-4 that year and struck out 93 batters.
After being released by the Mets in 2006, Lima became a baseball vagabond, logging time in the independent Golden Baseball League, as well as the Korean Baseball League. He was warmly embraced at all of his stops, often providing entertainment for his ballclubs in the form of song. Lima was an aspiring singer on the side, and even belted out the National Anthem before a Dodgers game once.
As someone who watched the rise and fall and rise again of Jose Lima, it pains me to find out that he has left us at such a young age. A man who truly enjoyed playing the game of baseball and exhibited that to all who had the pleasure of watching him pitch, Lima will be missed.
And remember, everyone: Anytime is Lima Time.