It was supposed to be a fun, relaxing night on the boat. It was the only remaining full day off the Cleveland Indians had during their spring training of 1993. A bonding experience for Major League Baseball pitchers Tim Crews, Steve Olin, and Bob Ojeda, who were going night fishing, quickly turned deadly for two of them on March 22, 1993.
The tragic boating trip
Tim Crews had spent the last six seasons of his Major League Baseball career with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had just signed a free-agent deal with the Cleveland Indians in the offseason and was getting familiar with his teammates. Steve Olin had been with the Indians for the previous four seasons as a relief pitcher. Bob Ojeda was a veteran and, like Crews, signed as a free agent with the Indians after spending the last two seasons with the Dodgers.
The three pitchers, along with Indians strength coach Fernando Montes and Crews’ neighbor Perry Bridmond, were all set to head out for the evening. They had spent the day barbecuing and horseback riding, according to USA Today. Crews lived on Little Lake Nellie in Clermont, Florida and they were all headed out on a boat that night for some night fishing.
It was dark and there was drinking involved. Speed was also a factor. In the darkness, Crews wasn’t able to see the large extension of the dock. The boat smashed into the dock, shearing three wooden posts. Crews, who was driving the boat, was impaired with a 1.4 blood-alcohol content. He died the next morning. Olin was killed instantly, while Ojeda suffered head injuries and narrowly escaped death.
The grieving process
In the 2013 USA Today article, Tim Crews’ widow, Laurie, spoke about the incident. “They were goin’ out there to find gators,” says Laurie, but only to spot them and not kill. “You shine a light; it’s not legal. At night, their eyes are bright red and they are easy to see.”
While many other family members played the what-if game over the years, Laurie Crews didn’t. She doesn’t wonder about what could have been if she or anyone else had done something different. “It didn’t matter,” she said while crying. “That day was Tim’s day (to die). It didn’t matter if he was in a boat or on a baseball field.”
Sharon Hargrove, the wife of Cleveland Indians then-manager Mike Hargrove, heard Steve Olin’s mother bawling one night and went to comfort her. “She said, ‘I just can’t take another day of people telling me, “He is in a better place,'” Sharon remembers. “She said, ‘No, he had heaven here right on Earth. He had Patti and these sweet babies. I can’t see him looking down on this scene and thinking he is in a better place.”’
Ojeda was in a dark place
Bob Ojeda was the lone player of the three to survive. He took most of the season to recover, but when he did come back to pitch, he just wasn’t the same. He struggled in nine games and then the following year he was released by the New York Yankees after compiling a 24.00 ERA in two appearances.
Ojeda rarely speaks about the incident, but spoke briefly about it in a 1995 Baseball Weekly article. He said he had constant flashbacks and was in a dark place. “The best word to describe that time for me was dread,” said Ojeda. “I was at the bottom of a black pit with no way out.”