West Covina sculpture of late Yankees pitcher, San Gabriel Valley resident Cory Lidle destroyed by metal thieves


WEST COVINA >> A bronze sculpture of Cory Lidle — a Yankees pitcher and San Gabriel Valley resident who died in a New York airplane crash in 2006 — was destroyed in a theft attempt by suspected metal thieves early Friday, authorities said.
The thieves were unable to remove the 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the entrance of the Big League Dreams sport complex, 2100 S. Azusa Ave., however they toppled and badly damaged in the attempt, West Covina police spokesman Rudy Lopez said. The statue was valued at about $100,000.
0222_NWS_SGT-L-STATUE2But they did get away with three bronze plaques that were on display at the memorial to Lidle, which was installed by West Covina to honor the fallen pitcher in October of 2007. The larger-than-life statue depicted Lidle, in his Yankees uniform, in mid-pitch.
While it remained unclear if the badly damaged statue could be repaired, “It’s never going to be the same,” Lopez said.
Lidle died October 11, 2006, when the small airplane he was flying in crashed into a Manhattan skyscraper. The Glendora resident was a standout player for South Hills High School in West Covina before becoming a professional baseball player.
Also killed in the crash was Lidle’s friend, 26-year-old Tyler Stanger of Walnut.
“It’s a horribly act of vandalism, and I hope they catch the people that did this,” West Covina Mayor Steve Herfert said. As a city councilman at the time, Herfert was involved in selecting the artist when the statue was first commissioned.
0222_NWS_SGT-L-STATUE3“This is a memorial to Corey Lidle, who grew up here in West Covina. It’s very disturbing,” the mayor said. “What a senseless act. It stuns me how someone could do something like that to a beautiful statue like that.”
Police reached out to the public Friday afternoon for clues regarding the identity of the thieves, as well as the location of the stolen plaques, officials said. They also notified area metal recyclers to be on the lookout for the unique plaques.
The theft took place between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., Lopez said.
It appeared whoever was responsible used heady-duty tools to cut into the large, bronze statue, Lt. Dennis Patton said. But they were apparently unable to make off with the massive sculpture.
The statue weighs about half-a-ton, according to the Texas-based foundry that cast it, the Stevens Art Foundry.
The City of West Covina commissioned the late Texas artist Don Hunt to sculpt the monument in 2007. Hunt died in 2011 at age 70.
Though the detailed statue was valued at $100,000, officials said the vandals were likely only after the value of recycled metal it was made of.
And at a current price of $3.27 per pound for copper — the primary component of bronze — the metal itself is worth less than $7,000.
Big League Dreams Executive Board Member John Giambi, father of Lidle’s former Yankees teammate and longtime friend Jason Giambi, described the incident as “disheartening” and “discouraging.”
“It’s disappointing that someone in the community would have the disrespect to do it,” John Giambi said.
Between 300,000 and 400,000 visitors have passed by the sculpture as they enter Big League Dreams each year since its installation, he said.
“It’s about pride. It’s about the community, It’s about what the city has done,” John Giambi said.
In addition to honoring the life of Lidle, the monument was a source of pride for the city, Herfert said.
“The community will rally around,” he said. “We will repair, or replace, or whatever we have to do.”
“I promise our residents this act of vandalism will not deter us from our goal of fulfilling dreams at our Big League
Dreams facility,” the mayor added. “The statue will be repaired and we will be stronger in our resolve to stop crime and vandalism.”

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