In honor of the sacred 50th anniversary of our Beloved Dodger Stadium, I will be releasing my top ten moments of Dodger Stadium history. Currently the Dodgers are casting a special vote on what the top ten moments of the last 50 years at the Ravine are. These are my top ten however. Please note these are mine, and mine alone. These are the top ten moments according to me, a lifelong fanatical Dodger fan, who has grown up in southern California. There are so many memories it is almost too hard to choose just ten. I will count down each one per day, leading up to the Dodger’s Opening day game April 5th in San Diego. Each one of these moments will make you smile, laugh, and will bring chills down your spine. Some of them may even take your breath away. Without further adieu, I give you the number seven moment in Dodger Stadium history: Lima time at Dodger Stadium!
Sometimes members of the Dodger family are taken from us too soon. We don’t know why, but we will never forget certain players that leave an impression on us that lasts a lifetime. Jose Lima was one of those guys.
Jose Lima was a right handed Dominican player who pitched for five major league teams over a 13 year career. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Tigers. Lima made his MLB debut at age 21 for the Detroit Tigers ion 1994. His best season was in 1999, when he won 21 games for the Tigers, posting a 21-10 record, and a 3.58 ERA. His next season was probably his worst, he lost 16 games, posted an ERA of 6.65, and allowed an eye-popping 48 home runs. Mistakes never bothered Lima. He never stopped smiling. That was because every day was a celebration for him. Lima only pitched one season for the Dodgers in 2004, but left an unforgettable memory that will last forever.
To say Lima was a character was an understatement. During his starts, Lima’s eccentricities were refreshing and entertaining. Every start, Lima would dance on the mound after each strikeout. Heck every out was like a party on the mound with Jose Lima. He would do little salsa-like dances right on the mound. He would stand on his toes, and scream. Raising his arms, and pointing, he would twirl around during some outs, like one of those dancers from an MTV video. Jose had a name for his eccentric personality, he called it Lima Time. It was always Lima Time!
Lost in all the shenanigans was Lima’s surprising consistency during his lone year with the Dodgers in 2004. Lima posted a record of 13-5, with a 4.07 ERA. He pitched in 170 innings, whiffed 93 batters, walked only 34. Actually his 1.8 walk per nine rate was his lowest since his all-star 21 win season of 1999. So it was no shock when the Dodgers asked him to pitch in the playoffs in 2004. The Dodgers had won the division, on the last day of the season, thanks to an amazing seven run rally in the bottom of the 9th, capped by a walk-off grand slam home run by Steve Finley.
The Dodgers didn’t have time to rest, the 93 win Dodgers had to play the 105 win Cardinals in the best of five National League Division Series. The Dodgers were underdogs, and it was no surprise when the Dodgers dropped the first two games in St.Louis. Down two games to none, headed back to Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers were facing a must win scenario, or go home.
On October 9th of 2004, for game three of the division series, the Dodgers gave the ball to Jose Lima. His opponent was Cardinals righty Matt Morris. The Boys in Blue, were down two games to none in the best of five sereies. The Dodgers had not won a post-season game since game five of the 1988 World Series, and their last two play-off appearances had ended in three game sweeps in the division series. However on this night, all of that would come to an end, because on this night, it was Lima time at Dodger Stadium.
Lima took the entire elimination game and put it on his shoulders. Lima took the spotlight by pitching the Dodgers to their first Playoff win, in nearly 15 years.
The Dodgers took the lead in the third inning. With the game scoreless, Steve Finley drove in two runs with a double. The Dodgers would extend their lead, when Shawn Green would lead off the fourth with a solo homer. With the score 3-0 Dodgers, it was all Lima would need. With their backs to the wall, Lima pitched the Dodgers to victory. We would not go down gently into that good night. We were going to fight. We were going to play on. Shawn Green added another solo home run to pad the Dodgers lead in the 6th. Lima would silence the Redbird bats all evening long. After each out, he would dance. Oh how he danced that night……
It gave us one last great moment during an exciting season. One out two outs, three outs four, Lima danced and danced, and Dodger fans wanted more. Jose Lima would go on to pitch a five hit complete game shutout, as the Dodgers lived to play another day. The Dodgers won 4-0.
For one great night, the Dodgers were winners in the playoffs, and it was Lima time at the ravine. The momentum from Lima time could only carry the Dodgers so far though. They would lose the next game, and thus the series. However that game was an all night long celebration at Dodger Stadium. It was simply unforgettable.
Lima signed with the Royals the following season. He had a terrible year in 2005, losing 16 games, and posting an ERA of 6.99. After he pitched in only four games for the Mets in 2006, Lima left the Major Leagues, but did not retire. In 2008, he signed with a Korean Baseball team. The Kia Tigers. He won a few games for the Kia Tigers, but was then released. Lima was still not ready to hang up his glove just yet. In 2009, he signed with the Long Beach Armada, of the Independent Golden Baseball League (GBL). His manager was former major leaguer Gary Templeton. Lima was traded though, from Long Beach, to the Edmonton Capitals. The fans loved him up there and even set up a local fan club. Lima only pitched in four games, posted a 1-2 record, and lost the only playoff game he pitched in. After the season he retired form Baseball.
On May 23rd 2010, only a few days after appearing at a Dodger game with his son, Lima passed away from a heart attack. He was 37 years old. In July of that year, his friend Red Sox DH David Ortiz, dedicated his all-star home run derby win to Lima. Lima celebrated everything. He celebrated his wins, he celebrated his failures, he celebrated well… life. Maybe Lima knew what he was talking about? Maybe we all can learn a little from Jose Lima. I think we all could use a little Lima Time in all our lives right?
Jose Lima may no longer be with us, but he left a forever memory. For that one night, the Dodgers were postseason winners again, and it was thanks to Lima Time. Jose Lime left a lasting legacy as a father, Major League pitcher, and a Dodger Playoff Hero. Lima may be gone, but he is not forgotten.