'Lima Time!' honors pitcher's spirit, joy

In honoring and paying respects to Jose Lima, The Baseball Project has written and recorded "Lima Time!" as a celebration of the former major league pitcher's love of life and baseball.

The Baseball Project just released "Lima Time!" as the fourth entry in its season-long Broadside Ballads series of songs the band is giving away free, exclusively on ESPN.com. Listen to it in the box at right and download it by clicking here.

"He was one of those players that had some success, but also really struggled a lot," The Baseball Project's Scott McCaughey said via e-mail last week. "It's not such an unusual story. I guess what made it unusual was his obvious love of the game, and the way I imagine he reminded those whom he played with to enjoy themselves."

Lima, 37, died May 23 after suffering a heart attack at his home in Pasadena, Calif. Between 1994 and 2006 he was 89-102 in 13 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets.

Here's an example of a few lyrics, which McCaughey wrote:

Come on, Astros, let's have some fun, I'll show you how it's done
200-plus innings, it's more than the winning
'Cause this year I'm racking up 21
Yeah this year I'm racking up 21

It's Lima Time!

His best season was 1999, when he went 21-10 with a 3.58 ERA and 187 strikeouts for the Astros, but McCaughey's fondest memory came near the end of Lima's career.

"Honestly, I just remember being dumbfounded when he shut out the Cardinals in the 2004 playoffs," McCaughey said. "I thought he had long passed his sell-by date. I'm sure the Cards were a bit baffled too."

The baseball world mourned the gregarious Lima, who called his pitching assignments "Lima Time" and sang in a band. McCaughey, who wrote the "Lima Time!" lyrics, said the pitcher's spirit reminded him of colorful characters from baseball's past about whom the Baseball Project wrote in many songs from its first album, "Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails."

"There aren't as many wacked characters in baseball today. I mean, in some ways I suppose that's a good thing, as the pressure to live a clean, athletic life is much greater," McCaughey said. "So there's less rampant alcohol abuse and such, something that I'm sure added to the 'character' of ballplayers of the past. I guess you could put Lima in the category of someone like Mark Fidrych, and I miss guys like that. Not so coincidentally, we've recorded a fine Fidrych tribute for the next Baseball Project album."

Jim Wilkie is the editor of The Life and can be reached at espnpucks@comcast.net.