20th anniversary: Cleveland Indians boating tragedy

Today marks the 20th anniversary of a terrible tragedy in the world of baseball, an accident that killed two people and badly injured another.

On March 22, 1993, Indians pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews died on a boating accident that left teammate and fellow hurler Bob Ojeda hospitalized.

With the end of spring training in sight, the trio of pitchers did some off-hours bonding. Crews and Ojeda had known each other for years, but they had just gotten to know Olin in recent months. Crews and Ojeda were free-agent signings in the 1992-93 offseason. Both had spent the last few years on the Dodgers staff, Crews as a reliever and Ojeda as a starter. Olin had been with the Indians his entire career.

So on March 22, a day off from baseball, Ojeda and Crews went to Olin’s house for some quality down time. They relaxed, fished, and enjoyed each other’s company at a barbeque.

That night, Olin took them out on his 18-foot boat. His home was along a place called Little Lake Nellie, and Olin had cruised it many times. They went speeding around on the lake fairly quickly, enjoying the experience, when it all went to hell.

The boat struck a new dock extension that went over 200 feet into the lake. Crews hadn’t seen it in the moonless night. Later, authorities would determine that his blood alcohol level was 0.14, more than enough to make him legally drunk.

When paramedics got there, Olin was already dead. Apparently, the initial hit killed him instantly. Crews was unconscious, and Ojeda was drifting in and out of consciousness. Doctors diagnosed Crews with a injured lung and a massive head injury, but surgery would have to wait until his situation stabilized. That never happened, as he died the next morning.

Ojeda survived. He later credited his survival to the fact he was slumping when the boat hit the dock. He had major lacerations to his head but recovered. It would be a slow recovery, as he had to get over not just the physical damage, but the emotional issues that came with it.

He did return to action, however, throwing his first pitch on Aug. 7. He did okay the rest of the year but signed with the Yankees in the offseason for what would be the last year of his career. The Indians had a disappointing season, finishing 76-86 for the second straight year, not the progress they had hoped for. Having a hole in their pitching staff couldn’t have helped.

But that is clearly of secondary importance, at most. The main thing was the lives that were lost, and they were lost 20 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other baseball events today have their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things.

Day-versaries

1,000 days since Boston learns the Dustin Pedroia has a fractured left foot thanks to a foul ball the night before.

1,000 days since the Giants retire No. 20 for former outfielder Monte Irvin.

2,000 days since the last day of the 2007 regular season causes a flurry of final games for veteran players, including Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Cirillo, Jeff Conine, Bob Wickman, Damian Miller, Mark Bellhorn, Sandy Alomar Jr., Scott Spiezio, Tony Batista, Royce Clayton, Rondell White, Orlando Hernandez, and Scott Spiezio” target=”_blank” class=”player”>Mike Stanton. Also, Buddy Bell manages his last game.

3,000 days since the Angels announce that their team will now be known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. They need to uphold their existing contract with Anaheim to include the town in the team’s name while also trying to grow their fanbase in the greater LA area.

3,000 days since the White Sox sign free agent Orlando Hernandez.

4,000 days since the big league debut of pitcher Brendan Donnelly.

5,000 days since three men die when a 480-foot tall crane named Big Blue collapses during the construction of Miller Park in Milwaukee.

5,000 days since Richie Phillips, head honcho of the umpires’ union, announces that 57 umpires will resign on Sept. 2. This turns out to be an amazingly bad idea.

20,000 days since Casey Stengel wins his 1,500 game as manager. He’s the seventh to do so, and the first one in 11 years. His record: 1,500-1,263.

Anniversaries

1866 Jack Boyle, 19th-century catcher who lasted long enough to play in over 1,000 games, is born.

1886 American Association president Denny McKnight is ousted from his position. Wheeler Wikoff takes over.

1906 Marv Owen is born. He’ll play third base for the Tigers in the 1930s. He’ll receive some token MVP support in 1934 and two years later drive in 105 runs.

1921 George Crowe is born. He’ll play in the 1958 All-Star game as a Cincinnati Red.

1926 Billy Goodman, infielder, is born. He’ll become a batting champion when he hits .354 with the 1950 Red Sox.

1940 Dick Ellsworth is born. He’ll be one of the best pitchers in baseball in 1963, going 22-10 with a 2.11 ERA, but he’s never the same after that. In 1964, he leads the league in hits allowed, earned runs allowed, and home runs allowed. In 1966, he finishes 8-22 with the most losses in the NL.

1944 Claude Hendrix dies at age 54. He won 20 games three times, including 29 for the 1914 Chicago Whales of the Federal League, but was later banned for participating in the throwing of games.

1950 Slim Sallee dies at age 65. In 1919, he went 21-7 for the world champion Reds while walking just 20 batters all year and even more amazingly fanning just 24.

1952 Eric Rasmussen, finesse pitcher, is born.

1964 The Braves sign amateur free agent Cito Gaston.

1965 Glenallen Hill is born. The slugger once hit a ball on top of a Wrigleyville rooftop during a game.

1968 Ramon Martinez is born. He’ll go 20-6 with a 2.92 ERA in 1990 but soon blow out his arm (though he recovers enough to be a quality starting pitcher for several years, if not the superstar it looked like he might become).

1972 The AL approves the sale of the Indians by Vernon Stouffer to a group headed by Nick Mileti for $9.7 million.

1972 Boston trades Sparky Lyle to the Yankees for Danny Cater and a player to be named later.

1972 Cory Lidle is born. He’ll pitch for seven teams in nine years before dying in a plane crash.

1976 Groundskeepers for the California Angels find marijuana growing from the outfield. The best guess is that some fans at a recent Who concert planted it there.

1981 AL president Lee MacPhail suspends Earl Weaver for removing his team from the field and forfeiting a spring training game.

1985 Starting pitcher Justin Masterson is born.

1986 Dexter Fowler is born. As a Rockies center fielder, he’ll lead the league in triples in 2010.

1987 Mets first baseman Ike Davis is born.

1990 Umpires announce that they will boycott exhibition games and won’t return to work until April 1.

1991 A 1910T Honus Wagner baseball card sells at an auction for $450,000. The group purchasing it includes Wayne Gretzky.

1996 The Phillies sign amateur free agent Carlos Silva.

1999 St. Louis announces that staff ace Matt Morris will miss the entire season due to torn ligaments in his right elbow.

2002 Dante Bichette retires.

2003 Tampa Bay releases veteran slugger Greg Vaughn.

2008 Former Braves catcher Javy Lopez retires.

2010 Minnesota signs Joe Mauer to an eight-year contract worth $184 million.

2011 Greg Anderson, personal trainer to Barry Bonds, refuses to testify at the slugger’s perjury trial.

2012 Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain dislocates his ankle while jumping on a trampoline.

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