By Jake Appleman

I don’t think I can underscore how strange it is when you experience a surreal event connected to and followed by another surreal event involving death. In this specific instance, the two experiences have formed an indelible link in my mind. And since the two experiences happened within four days of each other, the intensity has been magnified.

For those who don’t know, Cory Lidle, a pitcher for the New York Yankees, crashed his small plane into a building in New York’s Upper Eastside this afternoon. This past Saturday, Lidle stood on the mound in relief for just over an inning and ended up on the wrong end of the sequence that stamped the vaunted Yankees’ ticket out of the postseason.

As this occurred, I sat on my couch expressionless but happy. My dad called and we talked about our absolute disbelief in the improbable yet impending circumstances. As Lidle kept on giving up runs, our disbelief grew. We reveled in the pain of the Yankees while toasting to the heroics of the underdog Tigers. Tigers fans everywhere had waited 19 years for a moment like this and it seemed like the perfect human interest story. Lost in all the hoopla about the Tigers was the man standing at the epicenter of the historical happenings; the man on his mound, his own little island, failing to rescue the $200 million ship from sinking.

In many ways it didn’t make sense to me that Lidle was on the mound. Here was a guy who was originally a replacement player during the 94 strike–he already represents everything the superstar-laden Yankees are not–recently acquired in July from the Phillies; the other player in the Bobby Abreu deal. The fact that the ball was in his hands when most people realized that the mighty Yankees would fall didn’t seem right to me on Saturday, and it still doesn’t.

Even sadder, Lidle had the eccentric drive that reminds me a little bit of why we love guys like Gilbert Arenas and Rasheed Wallace. He ate ice cream cones in between innings during his starts. “Cory Lidle?!” I remember thinking to myself during his final appearance. “He has the moxie to start this game. He should have been out there originally instead of Jaret Wright. This must be so strange for him. He’s not a reliever, and they’re throwing him out there right now. He could have earned his stripes if they’d started him. But he shouldn’t be out there now.”

Rest In Peace, Cory Lidle. My prayers and deepest sympathies go out to your family during this tragic time.

If I had known Saturday was the last time I’d see you pitch, I wouldn’t have cared about anything else.