Former Dodger Jose Lima Dead at 37

Jose Lima, who was up and down during his 13-year career in the Major Leagues, died Sunday at the age of 37 at his home in Los Angeles of an apparent heart attack. Lima made the 1999 All-Star team when going 21-10 with a 3.58 ERA for the Houston Astros and was a 13-game winner for the Dodgers in 2004 with a rare shutout win over St. Louis in the NLDS.

As vibrant and funky as Mark "The Bird" Fidych who died in 2009, Lima delighted fans and teammates alike everywhere he went. And he really made the rounds.

He was signed by Detroit as a free agent in 1989 and traded to Houston, along with catcher Brad Ausmus. Five years later they traded him back to the Tigers for Dave Milicki. Then the elevator went up and down on a regular basis.

Released in 2002, he signed with Kansas City out of an independent league team, then released at the end of the season and signed by the Dodgers early in 2004. Los Angeles released him and he went back to Kansas City, moved on to the New York Mets and was out of the Major Leagues after the 2006 season.

On Friday night, at the first game of the Dodgers/Tigers series, Lima was introduced between innings and received an ovation from the crowd. The U.S. and state of California flags flew at half-mast Sunday to honor Lima.

The free-spirited pitcher could as easily deliver a song as a fastball, and left a trail of fun and laughter known as "Lima Time" wherever he went.

Dodgers first base coach, smiling despite the pain of losing a friend, said "When you faced Jose, you didn't know what to expect from him," said Mariano Duncan, Dodgers first base coach and former major league infielder.

"He had a good fastball, changeup and breaking ball. He was a fine baseball player and a good friend. Nobody enjoyed the game more than him, and we're going to miss him."

"It's sad," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "His energy was infected everyone around him. It's a big loss. He was a showman and a hot dog, but he won games. He willed himself to do it. He always had a smile on his face."

He came to Spring Training with the Dodgers as a non-roster invitee and not only made the team, he led the club with a 13-5 record and a 4.07 earned run average.

Then in the National League Division Series, he shut out the Cardinals on five hits, winning 5-0 before a packed house in Dodger Stadium. It was the first playoff win since the Dodgers 1988 World Series team. He also sang the national anthem and "God Bless America" at a home game in 2004. He also performed with his band at the team's annual Viva Los Dodgers celebration.

Dodger owner Frank McCourt made the following statement today regarding the passing of former Dodger pitcher Jose Lima. "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 team within the past month as a member of the Dodger Alumni Association and was preparing to open a youth baseball academy this summer in Los Angeles to help teach the game he loved to youngsters. He was committed to making appearances in the community on behalf of the team, including an upcoming musical performance at a Viva Los Dodgers event this summer.  

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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