Cory Lidle memorial service held in California

By The Associated Press

COVINA, Calif. – Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle was remembered as “a loving husband and an awesome father” Tuesday at a memorial attended by family, friends and teammates of the avid yet inexperienced pilot who was killed during an aerial tour of New York City.

As the 45-minute outdoor service began, three planes similar to the one Lidle owned appeared over the roof of the Mausoleum of Christian Heritage and flew over the crowd before disappearing into dark gray clouds. The planes later made two more passes.

Among those at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Lidle’s hometown were Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson and a contingent of Yankees: All-Star Derek Jeter, former high school teammate Jason Giambi, Jaret Wright, manager Joe Torre and general manager Brian Cashman. Also there were Oakland pitcher Barry Zito, Philadelphia teammates Pat Burrell and Chase Utley and former Yankees pitcher Aaron Small.

None connected to baseball spoke at the service, leaving Lidle’s family and friends to recall his fun-loving nature.

“I don’t think much of it was about the baseball player,” Jackson said afterward. “The nice thing was the way his family and friends spoke of him. It makes you reflect and appreciate life. He touched a lot of lives.”

The 34-year-old Lidle and his flight instructor, Tyler Stanger, were killed last Wednesday when the pitcher’s small plane crashed into a Manhattan high-rise.

Supported by another woman, Lidle’s wife, Melanie, walked to the gray casket adorned with a huge spray of white roses and daisies. She paused, then leaned heavily on the casket, shaking with sobs.

Mourners seated in rows of white chairs on the sprawling lawn that sloped down toward a busy freeway below watched, some in obvious anguish. Men wiped away tears from behind dark glasses, and knots of family shared long embraces near Lidle’s casket.

“Cory would have been so amazed at all the people here who admired him,” said Brandy Peters, Melanie’s sister. “He was a loving husband and an awesome father.”

Peters recalled the early days of her sister’s nearly 10-year marriage to Lidle, when the couple “begged me to bring 99-cent Jack in the Box tacos home from my high school job at Blockbuster.”

“His personality never changed with his increase in salary,” she said.

Lidle’s twin brother, Kevin, recalled a recent visit to Melanie’s home. She told him to go through Cory’s possessions and take anything he wanted.

She offered him a leather jacket that Kevin accepted and didn’t put on until he got outside. He instinctively patted the pockets and felt something.

“I reached into my pocket and pulled out a yellow tiny ball with a smiley face on it,” he said, holding up the ball. “This is Cory looking down on all of us and he’s OK.”

Among Lidle’s family seated on a plaza under green tents were his parents, Doug and Rebecca Lidle, and sister Lisa and brother Billy. On either side of the casket were large photos – one of a smiling Lidle in his Yankees cap, the other with him in full rotation on the mound.

Two of Lidle’s longtime friends took turns speaking, calling him by his nickname “Snacks,” a reference to Lidle’s habit of devouring candy in between innings.

“We were more like the `Goonies’ than the entourage of studs you would expect him to be with,” one of them said.

Both men promised Melanie Lidle they would always look after her and the couple’s 6-year-old son, Christopher. The family lived in Glendora, a Los Angeles suburb, during the offseason.

Lidle had been a licensed pilot for less than a year. The 26-year-old Stanger was a veteran pilot and teacher who ran a tiny flight school in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles. Investigators have not determined the cause of the crash or who was at the controls.

A reception at a nondenominational church followed the service.

Lidle pitched for seven teams during his nearly 10-year career, posting an 82-72 record with a 4.57 ERA.

He came to the Yankees in July, traded from Philadelphia, where he had signed a $6.3 million, two-year deal in November 2004.

Stanger’s survivors include his pregnant wife, Stephanie, and an infant daughter.

Lidle’s family requested that donations be made to Stanger’s family.