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New York Yankees Pitcher Cory Lidle Dies in Plane Crash

Aired October 11, 2006 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, shocking tragedy in New York City, a small plane slams into the 40th floor of a New York City high rise and New York Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle, a pilot, is killed in the fireball. How did this terrifying tragedy happen?

We've got all the latest with reporters and those who knew and worked with Cory. It's next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: We'll have lots of guests throughout the hour. But we begin on the phone from Lakeland, Florida with Kevin Lidle, Cory Lidle's twin brother. Thank you so much for spending this time with us, Kevin. We really appreciate it. How did you learn of this today?

KEVIN LIDLE, COREY LIDLE'S TWIN BROTHER (by telephone): I was actually at work and what I do I teach baseball and in between lessons with some kids and a buddy of mine called and he kind of started yelling in the phone, "It was Cory's plane! It was Cory's plane!" And, I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. And, he finally spit it out and said, "The plane registered with your brother's name crashed into a building in New York." And I was -- I couldn't believe it.

KING: Did you know he was flying today?

LIDLE: No, I did not. I talked to him yesterday. I didn't ask him when he was leaving New York or anything like that just still the normal conversation that I have with him frequently, you know. Basically, he was going to make some plans to go out to Phoenix and watch my baseball team play baseball out there.

KING: You have a team that plays in like winter league?

LIDLE: Well, I play in an adult league baseball in Orlando and we're going out for the World Series in Phoenix and I had invited him to go and he wasn't going to be able to go because obviously we expected the Yankees to still be playing. And, when they got eliminated, you know, he had called me and said "When are you going to be out there? I want to fly out there." So, you know, that's the last conversation I had with him.

KING: Were you worried, Kevin, when he took up flying?

LIDLE: I wouldn't say worried. I guess I had a little concern like, you know, when he first told me I was like "Why?" But apparently he had flown in a private plane and really enjoyed it and learned to fly. And I never questioned it and I'm not one to worry, you know. I'm not going to go on worrying every day of my life because he's flying. You know, I just hope for the best and today was unbelievable news to me. It still hasn't sunk in.

KING: How close were you, Kevin?

LIDLE: Well, we were really close, although the last few years I had been living in Florida and he's been in California when he wasn't flying, so we didn't see each other all the time. But we talked on the phone quite a bit. And, growing up, you know, we're twin brothers. We both played baseball. We competed at everything and for that matter we were as close as you could be while you're 3,000 miles apart.

KING: Identical twins?

LIDLE: We're actually fraternal. We look identical but we are fraternal.

KING: Now, you had quite a high school team, right? You caught him, right?

LIDLE: I caught him in high school and along with both the Giambi brothers, Jason and Jeremy, Aaron Small played on that team, Shawn Wooten and myself, so we made up a pretty solid team.

KING: What, Kevin, what kind of guy was he?

LIDLE: Cory was a normal person and when I say that if you were to meet him on the street, Larry, you would not know that he was a New York Yankee or a professional ballplayer. He's not one to brag and boast. He had a tremendous sense of humor. He loved to laugh and he was good at making other people laugh.

KING: He was also, I'm told, very outspoken, true?

LIDLE: Yes, he was not afraid to speak his mind and it got him in a little bit of trouble every once in a while but that was him, you know. And, I'm sure he wouldn't regret anything, you know. He sees things level minded and, you know, sometimes he just would speak his mind.

KING: Kevin, here's a statement from your former high school teammate and a great Yankee Jason Giambi, a long-time friend of you and Cory. Jason said, "Right now I'm really in a state of shock, as I am sure the entire MLB family is. My thoughts are with Cory's relatives and the loved ones of the others who were injured or killed in this plane crash.

I have known Cory and his wife Melanie for over 18 years and watched his son grow up. We played high school ball together and have remained close throughout our careers. We were excited to be reunited in New York this year and I am just devastated to hear this news."

Was Cory happy to come to the Yankees, Kevin?

LIDLE: Oh, he was ecstatic. I talked to him the day he got traded and, you know, I congratulated him and he said, "Yes, this is going to be different." And, obviously it's the biggest stage in the world and he was very excited. He didn't know what the future held with the Yankees but I know he was -- he was hoping that they were going to ask him to come back.

KING: Have you spoken, Kevin, to your parents?

LIDLE: I've spoken to my mother and my father. They're obviously having a tough time but what can you do? I mean somehow you hang in there and get through it. I don't know that it has hit them as hard as it's going to hit them and I can say the same for me. I've had a lot of calls from friends and family, you know, people calling and crying and they've released some emotions.

And, I haven't done that yet. I don't know. I guess I'm in some kind of state of shock. I just got home about a half hour ago and saw TV for the first time and it was kind of weird. The first thing that really hit me hard was I saw a picture of him and underneath it said 1972-2006 and that was the first thing that I looked at. And, I was like that does not look right.

KING: Have you talked to his wife?

LIDLE: I have not. From what I understand she was on her way home from New York, flying to California at the time and I believe her plane landed in between a half hour and hour ago.

KING: We're going to hold you a couple more minutes, OK, Kevin?


KING: I really appreciate it.

Coming up, more with Cory Lidle's twin brother Kevin; more words of sympathy and support from some baseball greats.

As we go to break, some video of Cory doing what he enjoyed most when he wasn't playing baseball.


CORY LIDLE: It's a good feeling. No matter what's going on, on the ground in your life, you can go up in the air and everything is gone. You know, you don't think about baseball. You don't think about anything. It's just something that takes you away from everyday life.

I love being in a plane and looking down to see traffic on the freeway.




BRIAN CASHMAN, N.Y. YANKEES SR. V.P./GENERAL MANAGER: We're incredibly saddened by this news today. It's a shock and I ask everybody to keep their prayers for his family and Cory. It's a sad day.


KING: That was Brian Cashman, the very young general manager of the New York Yankees.

With us on the phone is Kevin Lidle, Cory Lidle's twin brother.

And, joining us also by phone is Ron Guidry, the New York Yankee pitching coach and one of the all-time great lefthanders in Major League Baseball.

Ron, do you know Kevin?

RON GUIDRY, N.Y. YANKEES PITCHING COACH (by telephone): No, I don't think I've met Kevin but, you know, my condolences go out to Kevin and all of the Lidle family. It's quite a shock, especially when, you know, you just left.

I was just reflecting on the last few days of the season talking to Cory and trying to plan, you know, next year and everything else. And it's really -- it's really hard to accept and, you know, it makes what happens today, you know, it makes the end of the season seem immaterial to what happened today.

KING: Kevin, was he enjoying New York?

LIDLE: Oh, yes. He was loving it up there. Cory in my opinion was -- he liked to be on the big stage I think. When he was on the big stage I think he, I don't know if he concentrated more but he seemed to get more out of himself against tougher teams. And, you know, a lot is expected of you as a player in New York and those were the kinds of things that Cory thrived on.

KING: What was he like to coach, Ron?

GUIDRY: Well, he was fun to coach. When he first came to us, you know, the only time that I got to see him was, you know, on television. I saw him a little while when he was in Philly. And then when I got him over here, you know, the one thing that I found out about him is, you know, he was a bulldog.

He didn't have, you know, what pitchers say is overpowering stuff but you have to respect him because he knew how to pitch with the stuff that he had. And he always battled every time, no matter what the circumstances were. You know when he would go out to take the mound that he was going to give it his best shot. And, as a pitcher, that's all you can do when you go out there.

KING: Kevin, was he for want of a better term was he fearless? LIDLE: Yes. He was fearless. He's a true competitor. He liked to -- he knew what his job was. His philosophy in pitching was basically work ahead, work fast, and get out of, you know -- he liked to try to go three pitches or less to each hitter. And, if you're afraid of hitters, it's tough to do that.

I mean you have to get after those guys. And, that's what he tried to do. You know, I would watch a lot of his ballgames on TV and it wasn't out of the ordinary to see him in the 6th or 7th inning with 70 or 80 pitches and doing just what he knew he needed to do, you know.

KING: Did he want to pretty much fly the rest of his life?

LIDLE: Yes, I never really got into a deep conversation about flying with him. As a matter of fact, I had never flown with him. But I do know this like this spring when he was in Clearwater I went out to visit him and I went up to his apartment and he waved me over to the window.

And he had, I don't even know what it was, it was some kind of device for a plane. He was reading the weather and he was telling me, "OK, these clouds are going 9 knots and the air is going."

He was way out of my league when he was talking about that. But I knew at that point right there when he got out of his car, went in his house, he went over to his little toy and, yes, to make a long story short he loved it.

KING: Kevin, any funeral plans do you know of yet?

LIDLE: Not yet. I assume I'm going to find out a lot more tomorrow. I still need to talk to his wife.

KING: Yes.

LIDLE: And, I'm devastated too. I don't -- and that's going to be really, really hard.

KING: I don't think it set into you yet.

LIDLE: I know for a fact it hasn't set into me yet.

KING: Well, thank you for talking to us. I can't tell you how much we appreciate it at this difficult time, Kevin.

LIDLE: Right, thank you.

KING: We have a statement from New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. "This is a terrible and shocking tragedy that has stunned the entire Yankee organization. I offer my deep condolences and prayers to his wife, Melanie, and son, Christopher, on their enormous loss."

And, Ron Guidry, thank you so much. By the way, can we say that Cory figured prominently next year for the Yankees? GUIDRY: Well, we hadn't had any meetings yet but, you know, as a pitcher your name is always, you know, invaluable to the club, depending on what happens in the off season, if you get players, if you don't. You know and all pitchers are sacred so, you know, we certainly had probably all intents and purposes in using him in some kind of capacity.

KING: Ron, thank you so much.

GUIDRY: You're welcome, Larry.

KING: And best wishes to you, Ron Guidry of the New York Yankees, their pitching coach.

When we come back lots more ahead with people on the phone and people in studio as we look at this tragedy today in New York; don't go away.


KING: Still at the scene is CNN's Mary Snow. Mary, what's the condition now there, still raining?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is still raining, Larry. And investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board had come here earlier and more on the way, could be here at this point now.

The area has been sealed off. The mayor has said that residents would be allowed back into the building. But it is -- it's still a sense of shock among many people walking around just taking a look at where this plane crashed into the 30 and 31st floor of this building.

KING: Thank you, Mary, doing yeoman-like work all day. Mary will be on the scene.

Anderson Cooper, you covered that crash pretty quickly today. What did you head over from CNN?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we were in our offices and saw the smoke rising from the building across the park and just grabbed a cab and went over there.

KING: And what did -- I hear you got an interview rather quickly with someone who was an eyewitness?

COOPER: We tried to talk to as many eyewitnesses as possible off the bat. We talked to a young man named Luis (ph) who says he was working in a construction crew on a higher floor in the building, says he actually saw the plane right before it hit and felt the impact. Here is some of that interview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, we looked out the window and I saw the airplane coming towards us. It was me and a couple of workers that were there at that time. I just stood there, you know. I was scared.

COOPER: How far below you was the aircraft?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About two or three floors below us when the -- actually the airplane was coming towards us and I don't know if he really tried to avoid hitting us or he wants to really hit the building. So, what he did is try to make the turn and hit the middle of the building, not far away from us. It was like probably two apartments next to us, like three floors down. You know, he hit the building and what we saw was a big explosion.

COOPER: Did you feel the impact? I mean you were several floors above.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, actually yes, actually yes. The building shakes. That was scary. So, what we did we just ran to the elevator. We waited there for like two minutes or something like that.

COOPER: How many people were with you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was actually four of us and, you know, when we were like in the elevator we went to each floor to see if there was more people like in the apartments and, you know, a gentleman was screaming and we got no answer. So when we got like to the 42nd or 43rd floor all we saw was smoke and fire down the hallway.

COOPER: There was smoke in the hallways of the apartments?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We seen in the apartment and in the hallway was already fire and smoke. So, I told my friend I said, "Let's go down. Let's get out of here." We went all the way down to the first floor. In the lobby of the building there was a lot of smoke and on the street was this metal from the airplane and that was it. We went to the back of the building and just got out of there safe.


COOPER: And, Larry, of course, we now know that Cory Lidle and the flight instructor their bodies were found on the street. Parts of the plane were in the apartment building itself but they were on the street and Cory Lidle's passport as well was found there.

KING: Do we know who was piloting?

COOPER: At this point we do not, no.

KING: And, Anderson, it may seem stupid but that seems like a terrific impact for a small plane.

COOPER: Well, they say that the plane itself pretty much disintegrated on impact because it was a pretty light plane, as you said. They found part of the engine in one apartment, a tire in another apartment, but there wasn't that much wreckage because it pretty much disintegrated upon impact.

There were really, when you were there, there were basically two floors that kind of looked like were hardest hit. The flames leapt up several stories higher, so when you see those flames it may look like a larger impact zone than it really was but it was -- once the flames died down you could really clearly see two apartments that were pretty severely hit.

KING: Thanks, Anderson, we'll see you at the top of the hour. Anderson Cooper will host "AC 360" at the top of the hour.

Joining us on the phone is one of the best baseball writers ever, Bill Madden, the national baseball columnist for the "New York Daily News." One thinks of Thurman Munson doesn't one, Bill?

BILL MADDEN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Yes it does, Larry. That was the first thing I thought about today. In fact, somebody, one of my friends said, you know, immediately 9/11 and, you know, planes crashing into buildings.

And, I said, you know, I guess being an engrained baseball person but the first thing I -- well certainly after we learned who it was, my first thoughts were, of course, with Thurman in '79 and what a horrible few days that was for all of us.

KING: I don't know if you heard the interview with Kevin Lidle, Cory's brother.

MADDEN: I did. I was, you know, very moved by that.

KING: Me too.

MADDEN: Obviously we all send out our heartfelt condolences to Cory's wife and family.

KING: Did Cory impress you the way he described him? Was Cory that kind of guy to you?

MADDEN: Say that again, Larry, I'm sorry.

KING: Was Cory outspoken, funny?

MADDEN: Oh, yes. He was all of those things. And, as a reporter, Larry, I'm sure you can understand you can appreciate this. He was a guy who loved to talk to us and that's the thing that I will remember Cory about the most. I mean he came here with issues from Philadelphia because at the trading deadline, I don't know if you remember but he took a few shots at his Phillies teammates.

I think the quote was, "The last few years I haven't had a clubhouse that expected to win with me. It was almost a coin flip to know if the guys behind me were going to be there for 100 percent."

KING: Yes.

MADDEN: Well this didn't sit well with Arthur Rhodes, one of the other relievers on that team and Arthur Rhodes immediately shot back. I guess you know this but Cory was a replacement player during the strike in 1995.

KING: They never get over that some players. MADDEN: No. Well they didn't and Arthur Rhodes immediately shot back. He said, "He's a scab and he doesn't have a work ethic and after every start he doesn't run or lift weights. He'll sit in the clubhouse and eat ice cream."

Well, the ironic part about this whole thing is because you can see how Cory was immediately accepted by the Yankee players. They really liked him. And, after his first win with the Yankees he found about a half dozen Nestle Crunch ice cream bars in his locker.

KING: That's a great story.

MADDEN: And, I don't know who put them there and nobody ever did come forth and say who put them there but some might -- some might suggest that that was, you know, a knock on him but that isn't the way Cory looked at it. He looked at it he was being accepted by the Yankees and that's, in fact, what it was because he was a great guy.

KING: Thanks, Bill. Thanks for spending a couple moments with us.

MADDEN: OK, Larry, my pleasure.

KING: Bill Madden of the "New York Daily News."

When we come back, Miles O'Brien and Todd Zolecki, a baseball reporter with "The Philadelphia Inquirer," and Jim Burnett, the national -- the former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board; lots more to come on this tragedy today in New York. Don't go away.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK MAYOR: We do know that this plane was an SR-20 or SR-22 model, a Cirrus plane that holds four people but from what we can tell there were two souls onboard and both of those are dead.



KING: Before we check in with Miles O'Brien and others who have been waiting, let's go down to Little Rock, Arkansas. And Jim Burnett is the former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Jim, thanks for joining us. We're sorry we kept you waiting so long.


KING: Is it too early to say anything?

BURNETT: Well, we have very little public information about this accident at this time. I think the most salient thing we have is the FAA report that there was a may day that involved some concern about the fuel system. And, of course, that raises a lot of questions about whether or not the aircraft had been refueled, whether or not there was contamination in the fuel.

I would imagine that steps are already being taken to ascertain those things and, of course, anything else that might have been misinterpreted as being a fuel problem by the crew of this airplane.

KING: One onlooker said that the plane was acting very weirdly. In fact, it was a guy who flies small planes. He said it was banking left and right and seeming to be careening out of control.

BURNETT: Well, then that would raise questions about whether there was some problem with the control system of the aircraft. Of course, if they were having fuel problems, they might have been banking, trying to see if they could drain their fuel tanks more effectively. All those things will have to be studied very carefully as the investigation opens.

KING: How long does it take?

BURNETT: Oh, I imagine it will be several months before the NTSB will have a definitive determination of the cause of the accident. There will be important information, I'm sure, that will be developing in the next few days, if not the next few hours.

KING: They put the plane together, do they try to do that?

BURNETT: No, probably not in this situation in this. I imagine this plane is beyond putting together. And that's rarely actually done. What they try to do is lay out the plane on the two dimensional basis, and usually in a hangar somewhere, so that they can relate the parts to each other and see what broke up first and if there was any failures prior to the impact.

KING: Jim, thank you. We'll be calling on you again. It's always good to see you.

BURNETT: Good to talk with you, Larry. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances.

KING: Jim Burnett -- yes, former chairman, National Transportation Safety Board.

OK, Miles O'Brien has been on duty all day with this, co-anchor of CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING," and an instrument rated pilot himself. What about this plane? What is the Cirrus SR-22?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the Cirrus SR-22 and the SR-20 which is what crashed today is a relatively new airplane, Larry. It's been around for just about 10 years. It's an all composite airplane. It's probably the most technologically sophisticated single engine airplane there is, and it has a number of safety features in it, up to and including a parachute. There you see it operating. That was done in a test flight years ago.

If you really have a bad day, you have a lever in the ceiling that you can pull on and a rocket motor fires up that parachute and down comes the plane and the occupants, in theory, in safety. It's been used nine times over the years, and has saved some lives. So it has a lot of safety features.

KING: Would you gather it didn't work today?

O'BRIEN: It was not deployed today. And you can speculate on what happened. You could -- it takes a little bit of time to make the decision to pull the parachute. They were flying very low but I'm told that chute deploys so quickly that even at that low altitude, if they had made the decision to deploy that chute, it might very well have had a different outcome.

KING: The weather was bad, right?

O'BRIEN: Well, it wasn't great. It was a 1,500 foot cloud ceiling which is kind of a low ceiling. But that plane, in order to be legal, where it was supposed to be flying, needed to flying below 1,100 feet. So in theory, it was not in the clouds.

The visibility was fine. It was eight or nine miles. So, technically, that was legal for visual flight conditions, which is the type of flight that occurred here. And as long as they stayed below the restricted airspace above them in New York City on these corridors along the rivers where little airplanes can fly and helicopters fly, and sort of announce to each other that they're there, they would have been in a situation where the weather was OK.

One thing to point out though, Larry, the wind was blowing pretty strong, out of the east-northeast. And as that plane was turning left, as it went up the East River toward Manhattan, in order to avoid getting into La Guardia airspace, that wind would have blown them significantly toward Manhattan island.

It's possible they had to do -- in any case, it would have been a steep bank turn in order to turn around there. The wind could have blown them in the midst of that steep bank turn, and blown them toward that building and by the time they turned around and leveled out, it might have been too laid to evade that building.

KING: You hang with us, Miles. We're going to call on you again soon. We have a statement from New York Yankees manager Joe Torre. "This is a terrible shock. I was with Ron Guidry and Lee Mazzilli when I heard the news, and we were just stunned. Cory's time with the Yankees was short but he was a good teammate and a great competitor. My heart goes out to his family."

Up next, what baseball commissioner Bud Selig had to say just minutes ago. And as we go to break, more video if Cory Lidle's flight in a plane quite similar to the one that crashed today in Manhattan, and more guests coming. We'll be right back.


CORY LIDLE, DIED IN PLANE CRASH: Almost like you're 16 getting your license. You can go to the mall whenever you want. This is pretty much that same feelings, maybe times 100, because you can go just about anywhere you want and just, you know, to be up in the air looking down on everything on the ground is pretty cool. A pretty cool feeling. Yes, stick the landing, walk away and it's a good day.




BRIAN CASHMAN, N.Y. YANKEES SR. V.P./GENERAL MGR.: It's a terrible accident, obviously. I think everybody saw it earlier in the day but no one knows it could touch your life or your family or friends, and then as the day unraveled, things -- phone calls started being made and questions and inquiries started to come. And, you know, in terms of trying to find out, you know, some information. And that's when all of a sudden the worries started.

KING: The following statement was released a few statement ago by Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig. All of baseball is shocked and terribly saddened by the sudden and tragic passing of Cory Lidle. Cory was only 34 years old, had played in the major leagues for nine seasons with seven different clubs. He leaves a young wife, Melanie, and a young son, Christopher. Our hearts go out to them on this terrible day.

In Philadelphia, Todd Zolecki, the baseball reporter for the "Philadelphia Inquirer," who had covered Cory Lidle when he pitched for the Phillies. What was he like to cover?

TODD ZOLECKI, "PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER" BASEBALL REPORTER: He was great to cover. He was a good guy, always very friendly to us. And the first thing I thought of when I learned about the accident today is how often, you know, he talked about flying. He loved to fly and -- you know, there's a lot of dead time in the clubhouse before a game when we're in there -- and he liked to kill some time by talking to us about, you know, the last time he flew, or his plans for flying, or the plane he was about to buy, things like that.

KING: As a writer, were you sorry to see him leave Philly?

ZOLECKI: Yes, I was. I mean, like I said, like Bill Madden said earlier, he was always good to the media, so, you know, we're always very appreciative of that and, you know, even when he was struggling pitching-wise, he was very good, and had no problem talking to us.

KING: How about the differences with Arthur Rhodes?

ZOLECKI: You know, I think that was, you know, Cory made some comments when the Phillies traded him to the Yankees, and obviously some teammates and coaches took exception to that. And I think Arthur kind of wanted to defend himself and the team. But, you know, players -- some players on the team were still friendly with Cory. I know Cory was invited to a teammate's wedding next month, and he was still invited afterwards, so I think most of the guys kind of forgave him for that.

KING: Did you ever worry about his flying? ZOLECKI: You know, I didn't because, you know, anybody that knows Cory knows that he really prepares. I mean, he prepares everyday before he pitches. You know, he really sits down and watches game film. And this guy really took it seriously. You know, he talked about his instructor and he always had books, you know, he had stuff on his laptop. He was very much taking it seriously and, you know, he didn't have any concerns, so I had no reason to be concerned for him, I guess.

KING: Scott Graham is on the phone with us, the play-by-play broadcaster for the Philadelphia Phillies.

What was he like to be around for you, Scott?

SCOTT GRAHAM, PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES ANNOUNCER: He was a delight, Larry. He was, he was exactly what his brother said. He was a regular guy who was a pitcher in the big leagues. And as Todd just said, he knew that he did not have the stuff to blow people away, and the way that he went about his business was by preparing. And he prepared for each and every start. He dissected what it was that he had to do. He was like that on the mound, he was like that on the golf course, he was like that at the poker table, he was like that, apparently, at a chess board, and that's the way he approached the flying thing, as well. He believed that his level of preparation defined what it was that he was doing after he prepared.

KING: Were you ever concerned about his flying.

GRAHAM: Well, certainly. I mean, you know, any time you hear something along those lines, you get to a certain degree concerned. But I think Todd said it exactly right, which was that Cory had supreme confidence in what he did. And Cory believed that by his level of preparation, that he was ready to take on whatever it was.

And until we know ultimately what ended up happening here, I don't know that I'm going to feel any differently, but he absolutely was very proud of the fact that he had done what he had done to become a licensed pilot as quickly as he did, and he wanted to continue that for a very long time.

KING: Was he a golf freak?

GRAHAM: He was a tremendous golf freak, and he approached the game exactly the same way. And if he had taken you out, or anybody else out, he probably would have also showed you that the right way to approach the game was by breaking it down and hitting the right shot, the right club in the right spot. The one thing that ended up happening over the course of time was some of the golf games went away over the last year because the real interest became flying.

KING: We have a statement, guys, from Derek Jeter, the brilliant Yankee shortstop.

"I am shocked by this devastating news. Spending the last few months as Cory's teammate, I came to know him as a great man. While he was known as a baseball player, he was, more importantly, a husband and father and, at a time like this, I want to share my deepest sympathies with his wife Melanie, and son Christopher, and all those who know and loved him."

Was he that strong a family man, Todd?

ZOLECKI: The Phillies allow -- Phillies allowed their children, the players' children in the clubhouse and Cory's child, son Christopher was often seen in the clubhouse, kind of goofing around with the other players' kids. And, you know, I met his wife, and his wife was a great lady. And yes, I think so.

KING: What did you make -- did you get to hear his brother tonight on this show, Todd?

ZOLECKI: I caught a little bit of it. Yes.

KING: He was awfully composed, wasn't he?

ZOLECKI: He was composed, and it actually struck me. I know they're twins. He also sounds a lot like his brother, as far the voice goes.

KING: He does?


KING: Yes.

Do you think maybe, Scott, that shock -- he's still in shack?

GRAHAM: I don't think there's any doubt about it, but I think that right now, if you had an opportunity to talk to Cory about what had happened to him today, his reaction would have been the same way, because it was very -- Cory took things in that way. He took things in a very pragmatic, moving-forward way. You didn't see a tremendous amount of emotion, now you could see that fire out of him when he was competing at something, but he tried to approach things in that -- I don't know if I want to use the word calculating here, because that sounds wrong, Larry, but in that very pragmatic-type way. And his brother sounded very similar to the way that Cory sounded.

KING: Do you think when all the funeral arrangements are made, in addition to the Yankees, many Phillies will attend?

GRAHAM: I think that there are a lot of his teammates that really enjoyed his company, and enjoyed being around him, and I certainly would hope so.

KING: Thanks for joining us, Scott.

Scott Graham, the play-by-play broadcaster of the Phillies.

Todd Zolecki remains with us, so does Miles O'Brien.

Lots more to come on the edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us on the phone now is Tyler Kepner, who covers the Yankees for the "New York Times".

Tyler, with the Mets and Cardinals rained out tonight, and the Steinbrenner story already in the books, this will be on every page tomorrow, will it not?

TYLER KEPNER, "NEW YORK TIMES" YANKEES REPORTER: Yes, it's just shocking. I mean, it's a shocking enough story, you know, when a plane hits a building like that, but to have it be a Yankee is just almost surreal.

KING: What was he like to cover?

KEPNER: I liked him a lot. I really did, because he never had any airs about him at all. You know, he was the kind of guy, who, you know, you wouldn't know that he was even a Major League Baseball player. He just treated everybody with respect, and he was just like a regular guy. But he was a regular guy who had some -- he liked to have fun off the field. He liked to golf, he liked to, you know, play poker and stuff. And you know, those were some of the reasons why he got into flying. He wanted to bring his world a little bit closer to him.

KING: Scott Franzke, the other radio broadcaster for the Phillies, were you concerned about his flying?

SCOTT FRANZKE, PHILLIES BROADCAST: Well, I don't think I would say concerned because I think like Scott had said and like Todd had said, that the approach that Cory takes with just about everything he does, he's so analytical with it.

I recall a story we were talking at pitching early in the season and he's talking about angles and setting up on the left side or the right side of the pitching rubber, depending on if he's got a right- handed hitter or a left-handed hitter and different things he was trying and he related it to geometry and he was a great pool player and how you use angles in pool.

I mean, he really studied everything and everywhere we went on the team charters and what not, he was always talking about flying. He was always interested in the planes that we walked by on the runways going out to the team charter. No big concern because I think you understood that Cory took it very, very seriously. And that was his approach with just about everything he did.

KING: Todd Zolecki, did the Phillies ever consider contractually making him unable to fly?

ZOLECKI: Basically has a list of things that a player cannot do. I mean, flying is one of them, hunting which a large majority of baseball players hunt in the off season, includes everything from downhill skiing, water-skiing, racquetball. These are lists of things that players aren't supposed to be able to do. It's just meant basically language that protects the team from millions of dollars that they invest into the talent that they have.

KING: So was he breaking a team rule?

ZOLECKI: Yes, yes, he was. But I mean, the Phillies knew that and he knew that. But, I mean, the way he looked at it. We actually talked to him about it a couple of times. He said, listen, I understand it's in the contract, but flying is safe. You know, he said flying is safer than riding a motorcycle. And that's the way he felt.

KING: Tyler, was he breaking a Yankee contract?

KEPNER: Well, you know, he signed the contract with the Phillies so it was really a contract they inherited. But, yes, like Todd said, there's a lot of activities, just about anything you do off the field, if it's not baseball related, if you get injured doing that the team can void the contract. But that was really not as much of a consideration. In fact, I talked to the Yankees general manager Bryan Cashman today. He didn't even know that Lidle was a pilot.

KING: Did not know?


KING: Scott...

KEPNER: ... No, he didn't. Like I say, he just gotten here two months ago and, you know, there was never even a consideration for the Yankees. I mean, some people knew, teammates knew obviously, there's been articles about it. But it wasn't something that really crossed the front office official's mind.

KING: As sad a day as it is in New York, it's just as sad in Philadelphia, is it not, Scott?

FRANZKE: Without a doubt. I mean, any time this kind of thing happens it certainly hits close to home. I know, it shook me a little bit and, you know, it's a cliche but it brings everything in perspective. And you know, what you're doing for a profession. It's just a game, it's just entertainment and what happened today is a real tragedy.

And you just -- you just feel for Melanie and his son.

KING: Thank you all very much. And when we come back, some moments with Miles O'Brien, a pilot himself who's been covering this in wonderful style today as a journalist and as a pilot. Right back after this.


KING: There's the building that the plane hit. Joining us now in our remaining moments, Miles O'Brien, the co-anchor of CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

Would you gather, Miles, that based on the conditions that the trainer might have been piloting the plane?

O'BRIEN: Well this is a murky area, Larry, because here you have the student as the owner of the airplane and the instructor there supposedly teaching that student what to do.

And frequently, this could be a very dangerous situation because what an instructor is supposed to do, think about it, is to allow the student to make mistakes and correct them. And the decision on when that instructor should take control from the student is a critical one. And sometimes what happens with instructors is they wait too long.

Allowing the student to make a big enough mistake that even the instructor cannot bail the two of them out from. So it's a murky set of controls and there has to be very clear preflight briefing on who's in charge when things go bad.

KING: Are you super-extra careful when you're flying over the city of New York?

O'BRIEN: You bet. You bet. It's actually a very tense place to fly, I find. It's exciting, it's exhilarating, but there's traffic everywhere. The plane that crashed today is nearly identical to the one I fly, the one I own.

It has a traffic avoidance capability on it. And it screams at you when there's traffic. Traffic, traffic! And when you're going down the Hudson River and up the East River that's all it does, is scream traffic at you, because it's everywhere. So you've got to be swiveling your neck around like an owl, looking everywhere you go. You've got the buildings, you have very narrow avenues in which to fly and turn around. It's very tight airspace. The reward is an amazing view.

KING: Are you still, where he was, are you still talking to Teterboro?

O'BRIEN: Not necessarily. See what happens is this restricted airspace, which covers over the tri-state area of New York and Connecticut and beyond, this area has a little kind of tunnel beneath along the rivers which allow general aviation, light aircraft, helicopters and the like, to fly without having to make contact with controllers.

They get on the radio. There's a certain frequency you're supposed to call and you just self-report on this frequency. You hear all the planes saying I'm up at the bridge heading down to the lady, referring to the Statue of Liberty. Or I'm at you know, the Lincoln Tunnel and I'm headed down south or I'm at the Brooklyn Bridge, I'm headed up to Roosevelt Island. And that's the kind of calls you hear. And you're looking for this traffic all the while, but the controllers are not in the mix.

KING: Will they eventually have a -- we only got 30 seconds. Sometimes the results unknown?

O'BRIEN: Yes, I mean, you got to remember there's no black boxes on these planes. There's no flight data recorder, no cockpit voice recorder. So there's going to be potentially some unanswered questions. We'll have the radar tracking, we'll have some indication from eyewitnesses, but that can be really unreliable.

It may be -- unless there's a clear cut mechanical failure that's found in that wreckage, it could be difficult to learn precisely what happened. They'll come up with probable cause. But knowing for sure, that could be hard.

KING: And boy that plane left quite an impact on that building.

O'BRIEN: It did. You know, that plane topped off with all the fuel it can handle, is only 80 gallons -- 80 gallons of 100 low-lead fuel. That's a big fire for 80 gallons of fuel. So they must have had a lot of fuel on board.

KING: Thank you Miles, as always. Miles O'Brien knows his stuff.

And we certainly thank all of our guests, especially Kevin Lidle, Cory's twin brother, under this difficult circumstance for coming on with us tonight for a good 20 minutes.

Anderson Cooper will host "A.C. 360." He'll be devoting a lot of attention to this. HE was on the scene today. Anderson?


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