Saturday, May 29, 2010

An Elegy for Jose Lima, Gary Coleman and Dennis Hopper

I've been meaning to do a tribute blog to Jose Lima, who passed away a week ago after a sudden heart attack. Then we recently lost Gary Coleman and Dennis Hopper. Since they always say death comes in 3's, there's no better tribute than combining reflections of all three in one post.

Jose Lima was one of my favorite characters growing up. He pitched with style and flair and he had a genuine joy for the game. I used to love hearing him come on Jim Rome's radio show because he'd always talk about Lima Time and get Jim excited. Most athletes were just ok interviews but outside of Rex Hudler, Lima was probably my favorite because of his personality.

In 1999, Lima won 21 games for Houston and I remember him telling Rome that he'd give him the 20-win ball. All summer long, I followed him as he went to the All-Star Game and racked up the win. When he got to 20, I knew it'd be a great show and sure enough, Lima did it. 11 years later, one of the coolest moments I've heard on the radio.

Even when he fell into a huge funk in 2000 and gave up 48 homers, he never lost his passion. It was always Lima Time even when he fell to Independent League ball. His last moment of glory will go down in Dodgers history - Game 3 of the 2004 NLDS. A five-hit shutout that I remember running back to see the final outs for.

It was the first postseason win for the Dodgers since the 1988 World Series. We ended up losing the series but to see Lima point to the sky and celebrate the biggest win we had in 16 years - it was the culmination of him being a lifesaver that year. He went 13-5 and his last pitch was one we'll never forget.

So sad that he was at the stadium only two days before his died. The last photo of him symbolizes what he brought to the game - joy, passion, optimism. Always Lima Time forever - believe it!

Gary Coleman never seemed to have a sense of peace about him. Despite the fact that he was one of the biggest child stars ever, he could never escape the image of being Arnold Jackson, that overplayed catch phrase and being a short actor.

(To that matter, none of the three kids on Diff. Strokes could ever escape their characters. That entire show was perhaps the first troubled sitcom where the main players' drama was played out for all to see. Makes you appreciate Todd Bridges cleaning up a lot more. Something I might explore in another blog though.)

It seemed like whatever happiness he found, it was followed by a series of troubles. Suing his parents about his trust fund, punching a woman who aggravated him. He never found a great sense of closure after the show and I blame it partly on him not getting enough respect.

Child stardom is a double edged sword - they'll be insanely famous at an age when most kids can only dream of it but they'll spend the rest of their lives trying to escape it and possibly go mad in the process.

Diff'rent Strokes left the air by the time I was barely a year old but we all knew the catchphrase in elementary school. Gary Coleman went from a beloved star to a punchline. I don't think we knew his personal life as well because it seemed all we heard was the troubles - not the charity work or see him at his happiest.

I'll choose to remember him having a fun cameo in Kid Rock's video for "Cowboy" - ironically fighting Rock's late partner Joe C. I hope he's laughing with Dana Plato as they are both finally at peace.

Peace also finally came to Dennis Hopper, who had battled prostate cancer for a long while. If anyone defined cool and unpredictability, it was him. I didn't know that he directed and co-wrote "Easy Rider" until today which let me know of his talent.

That movie defined cool but for me - I'll remember him for being Shooter in "Hoosiers." Rare is the sports movie that gets Academy Award attention but to get an Oscar nomination for playing an assistant coach who battled alcohol to watch his son play? It's impressive. Try not to hold it in when he coaches the final play of one the games.

Knowing that he struggled with the bottle - that role was probably as emotionally helpful as Samuel Jackson being the crackhead Gator Purify in "Jungle Fever"

He also directed "Colors" - one of the first movies to describe the gang culture of Los Angeles. Sean Penn and Robert Duvall may have carried it well as actors but the movie, along with its Ice-T theme song, defined a new era and stands as one of the best films describing my city.

We'll remember him for those last commercials he did for the baby boomers of his era. Hip hop will remember him in "Victory" as a cameo in P. Diddy's apocalyptic epic. He was a rebel who did things his way and kept his cool. He was a villain who somehow endeared people to him. A talented actor with an independent streak who earned respect.

Three gone, but forever remembered in their own way. May they rest in peace


  1. My favorite Dennis Hopper scene may be in True Romance when he has his encounter with Christopher Walken's character. Sicilians. It's classic.

    I grew up with Diff'rent Strokes. I wish things would have been better in Coleman's life.

    Lima Time was a great time in Dodgertown.

    RIP to all three.

  2. Just learned about Lima from your post. Very cool memories of one of the best characters in baseball.

    Gary! Peace to Gary.

    Agree with dodgerbobble- the True Romance scene with Hopper is my fave.
    And you're an eggplant.

  3. Thanks guys. @dodgerbobble - I told Muggsy I need to check more Hopper movies. Guess I'll start with that one?

    Sad thing is with Gary, I never thought he'd end up dying tragically. Dana Plato you could see, Todd Bridges before he cleaned up you could see, but not him.

    Lima Time's last shining moment was with the Dodgers and I can be proud of that as a fan. Deserves love in L.A. and H-Town