Jose Lima was beloved by teammates. Opponents despised him. Each time he stepped on the mound, or “Lima Time,” it was a show within the show with his dancing, singing, and pitching. After a 13-year career with the Houston Astros and four other teams, Lima hung up the spikes in MLB for a final time after the 2006 season. Tragically, Lima died in 2010. Here’s a look back at the fun-loving Jose Lima’s life, career, and untimely death.
Jose Lima never wanted to play baseball
Growing up poor in the Dominican Republic, Jose Lima was never into baseball. Unlike most young boys in that baseball talent-rich country, his interests lie in other areas, like performing. Lima wanted to be a star, not on the baseball field, but on stage. While it sounds far-fetched, it wasn’t. Lima was talented.
When he was just 11 years old, he started singing in night clubs. A couple of years later, at a popular festival, Lima sang in a competition, essentially a Dominican Idol. He won. Despite his success on stage, his father, a former baseball player himself, had dreams of his son one day becoming a pitcher.
Lima, because he idolized his father, relented. He decided to pursue a career in baseball, and at just 16 years old, he signed with the Detroit Tigers. It was a decision that would send him on a circuitous trip that would span over a 13-year MLB career and would be filled with ups, downs, and a whole lot of Lima Time.
Lima has a lengthy MLB career
Jose Lima made his MLB debut with the Tigers in April 1994 at age 21. His career started poorly. After four seasons, which included one year with the Houston Astros, he had posted a 9-22 record and a 5.92 ERA. Then, in 1998, everything changed.
That season Lima gained control on all of his pitches. He surrendered just 32 walks in 233 innings and finished the season with a 16-8 record and 3.70 ERA. He was a key reason the Astros set a franchise record winning 102 games that season and made it to the playoffs. Lima’s performance was a precursor of things to come in 1999.
During the 1999 campaign, Jose Lima was a dominant pitcher, and he knew it. He would celebrate big moments, by singing or dancing, revealing to those thousands in the stands the career path he wanted but never pursued. He had a lot to celebrate that year as he made his one and only All-Star Game appearance and finished the season with a 21-4 record and a 3.58 ERA. He finished fourth in Cy Young Award voting.
Unfortunately for Jose Lima, the frequent celebrations were reduced to almost nothing the following season and the remainder of his career. He had a solid season with the LA Dodgers in 2004 when he went 13-5 and won a League Division Series game. Outside of that, he struggled mightily. He retired after the 2006 season.
Jose Lima’s death shocks MLB
After retirement, he always talked about finally pursuing his career on stage. It never happened. In fact, the draw to baseball was so strong, in 2008, he signed with the Kia Tigers in Korea. A year later, Jose Lima returned to the U.S. and played in the independent Golden Baseball League for a season.
On May 23, 2010, Lima complained of pain to his wife in the middle of the night. She thought he was just having a nightmare. When she realized something was wrong, she called 911. Paramedics arrived, but it was too late.
He was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. He had suffered a massive heart attack. Jose Lima was just 37 years old.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.