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Thursday, March 21, 2013

USA Today: Indians boating tragedy still haunts 20 years later

Kirk Gibson remembers…the horror.

NEED FOR SPEED

At spring training in Arizona, Kirk Gibson, the hero of the Dodgers’ 1988 World Series conquest, sits down, removes his cap and discusses the “great intentions” Crews had when he invited teammates and their families to foster new-found friendship and team camaraderie.

Gibson, who had rejoined the Detroit Tigers, previously had visited the ranch, but this off day was an Indians-only shindig. Some teammates and Indians officials who didn’t attend the picnic went to Disney World with their families.

“I was really close to him,’’ says the 55-year-old Diamondbacks manager.

So close that Gibson also realized his buddy had a weakness — a fascination with speed., particularly fast, aerodynamic and powerful boats.

In 1990, Gibson says Crews arranged for his then-Dodger teammate to purchase a pro-style Skeeter bass tournament boat. It was equipped with a high-revving 200-mph horsepower engine.

“This,’’ Crews told Gibson, “is a really bad-ass boat.’‘

The pitcher tricked-out the vessel for Gibson in Florida, and then shipped it up north for the native Michigander. On an off-day, Crews wanted to test the boat’s limits with his pal. Gibson was caught off guard. Initially, he was behind the wheel, he says. Crews became antsy.

“Let me behind the wheel,’’ Crews told his teammate.

Gibson then describes his horror.

“I tell you what, he got behind that wheel and we took off — we’re barely in the water. We’re doing 74 mph and we jump a wake and that boat felt almost like a wing of an airplane. He scared the (heck) out of me.

“I said, ‘You’re crazy.’

“He’s like, ‘Whoo! Whooo!’

“He’s kind of a hillbilly, you know — a dirt farmer. ‘Whooo! Whooooo! Whooooooo! He’s screamin’ and hollerin.’ ‘’

Crews’ risky behavior followed him home.

“He was haulin’ ass that night,’’ Gibson says. “I got it first-hand (from eyewitnesses). He was reckless. Sometimes, you just get over-aggressive. Athletes, that’s our strength. But it can be a weakness and leave us vulnerable.

“(He was) a great dude. It’s unfortunate all of the families that were affected by it. It’s tragic. I miss him. He died doing what he enjoyed doing. Unfortunately, he left his wife and kids behind.’‘

Repoz Posted: March 21, 2013 at 05:40 AM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, indians

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   1. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: March 21, 2013 at 06:17 AM (#4393345)
Worst day of my life as an Indians fan. I'd take ten heartbreaking World Series losses before having to go through that again.
   2. Daft Wullie Posted: March 21, 2013 at 07:59 AM (#4393360)
I remember sitting on the couch at my parents' house (home from college on spring break, I guess) and hearing the news on tv; I felt absolutely gutted.

If I remember correctly, not only did this event result in the deaths of Olin and Crews and the effective end of Ojeda's playing career, but was also blamed for helping push fellow reliever, and close friend of Olin, Kevin Wickander off the rails towards substance abuse and prison.
   3. Howie Menckel Posted: March 21, 2013 at 08:09 AM (#4393363)

I remember "owning" Olin at a good price for that season in fantasy baseball, and how banal that felt off the news. Never did ##### about it, because ....

   4. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: March 21, 2013 at 08:21 AM (#4393366)
I think it was Olin's young wife who was on ESPN a few days later and spoke eloquently about the tragedy. I remember her saying something to the effect of "if you see me at the ballpark and want to give me a hug, go right ahead." There was something really moving about that.
   5. Jason Michael(s) Bourn Identity Crisis Posted: March 21, 2013 at 08:24 AM (#4393367)
In my APBA league, Olin was traded postmortem as a high-graded reliever (something like a 17*). As a largely Michigan-based league we have a few Ohioans, so this topic (and the accompanying league trivia) comes up every couple of years. Simply a terrible tragedy.
   6. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 21, 2013 at 09:20 AM (#4393390)
I was 11 years old then and I remember seeing Steve Olin on TV a time or two in 1992 and thinking he was so cool. Then I turned on Sportscenter one morning and his picture was on the screen and they said he was dead. That was a real kick in the balls, and I'd barely heard of him.
   7. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: March 21, 2013 at 09:46 AM (#4393410)
I think it was Olin's young wife who was on ESPN a few days later and spoke eloquently about the tragedy. I remember her saying something to the effect of "if you see me at the ballpark and want to give me a hug, go right ahead." There was something really moving about that.


That's the first thing I remember about it too.
   8. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: March 21, 2013 at 09:55 AM (#4393418)
The very next day, March 23 (also my birthday), my fantasy league held its draft. I used my last pick on Steve Olin, and I insisted on keeping him on my roster the entire season.

Then, in 2002, I had Darryl Kile in one of my keeper leagues. He also stayed on my roster all year.
   9. SOLockwood Posted: March 21, 2013 at 10:23 AM (#4393435)
re: Wickander
I remember a Sports Illustrated story in late 93 discussing how much trouble he having coming to grips with Olin's death.
   10. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: March 21, 2013 at 10:32 AM (#4393444)
I've linked to it before, but this is an amazing and heartbreaking article about Wickander's post-baseball life.
   11. Transmission Posted: March 21, 2013 at 11:08 AM (#4393465)
I was 15 at the time, participated in my first fantasy draft a few days before the accident, had drafted Olin, not knowing anything about him and the indians other than he was the closer. After the death, I named my first ever fantasy team "the really shitty boaters." I still am disappointed in my 15-year-old self for doing that. RIP, Tim and Steve. And # 8 - I had Kile in 2002, and then Adenhart a few years ago. And I did the same as you, they stayed rostered.

Nice article on Wickander. Reading about him asking his dad to safeguard Olin's watch so he wouldn't pawn it made me cry. Oof.
   12. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 21, 2013 at 11:18 AM (#4393471)
I was delivered the news by a close friend at college. I showed up to the University Center cafe for lunch and he told me what had happened. He was a Yankees fan but wasn't in tune with the rest of the league so he couldn't remember Olin's name but knew he was a reliever and I put it together from there. I just remember being stunned by it.

“I tell you what, he got behind that wheel and we took off — we’re barely in the water. We’re doing 74 mph and we jump a wake and that boat felt almost like a wing of an airplane. He scared the (heck) out of me.


I've gone 65 mph in a boat like this in a similar situation - a friend at the wheel - and I don't plan to ever do it again. I distinctly remember calculating that we had roughly a 5% chance of crashing and dying in the next moments. You feel like you're barely touching the water and if you hit a wave wrong - let alone another boat - it's going to be all over.
   13. SoSH U at work Posted: March 21, 2013 at 11:42 AM (#4393512)
I've gone 65 mph in a boat like this in a similar situation - a friend at the wheel - and I don't plan to ever do it again. I distinctly remember calculating that we had roughly a 5% chance of crashing and dying in the next moments. You feel like you're barely touching the water and if you hit a wave wrong - let alone another boat - it's going to be all over.


I don't know if I've ever gone that fast, but I remember the exact sentiment at whatever top speed I reached. That #### is scary.
   14. just plain joe Posted: March 21, 2013 at 12:02 PM (#4393532)
You feel like you're barely touching the water and if you hit a wave wrong - let alone another boat - it's going to be all over.


You are barely touching the water, the only parts of a boat actually in the water at those speeds are the bottom half of the propeller and perhaps 5% of the hull. They used to have hydroplane races here every summer, on the Ohio River, and it seems like two or three of them would come completely out of the water and end up upside down. Of course they were going faster than 65 mph but it could happen at a slower speed under the right conditions.
   15. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 21, 2013 at 12:30 PM (#4393553)
You feel like you're barely touching the water and if you hit a wave wrong - let alone another boat - it's going to be all over.


That's why Kenny Powers sticks to jet skis.

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