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Indians Boating Tragedy
Here's the transcript from Show 155 of weekly Outside The Lines - Indians Boating Tragedy
MARK SCHWARZ - A painful anniversary. We revisit the single worst tragedy ever involving active major leaguers, this morning on Outside The Lines.
DAN PATRICK - Three members of the Cleveland Indians were involved in a one-boat accident at 7:30 this evening.
SCHWARZ - Ten years ago this week, tragedy struck.
KEVIN WICKANDER - My best friend. He was the best man in my wedding. And the reason I am where I am today is because of him.
SCHWARZ - On a quiet Florida lake, two major leaguers would lose their lives in one terrible instant.
FERNANDO MONTES, INDIANS STRENGTH COACH (1992-2002) - I heard this loud thump, then a crash.
PERRY BRIGMOND, TIM CREWS' FRIEND - I heard somebody screaming, help us, we're hurt.
SCHWARZ - An instant with cruel reverberations for the family and friends who were left behind.
PATTI WINTER, STEVE OLIN'S WIDOW - When they told me I just couldn't believe it. How do you tell a 3-year-old that, you know, daddy is not coming back?
SCHWARZ - Today on Outside The Lines, finding a way to carry on. The Cleveland Indians boating tragedy 10 years later.
SCHWARZ - Tim Crews was 31, Steve Olin 27. They were young, they were talented, they'd made it. Their lifelong dream to reach the big leagues had come true. And they were making great money doing what they loved to do. Each was happily married. Each had three young kids. What took a lifetime to create was gone in an instant. Suddenly a family barbecue on a serene lake, with a soundtrack of laughing children, had become an unspeakable tragedy that devastated two families.
How did those families cope with that moment, and with all of the moments that followed? Tom Rinaldi visited Little Lake Nellie in Central Florida to remember that awful March evening 10 years ago this week when two big leaguers lost their lives, leaving six young children without fathers.
TOM RINALDI, ESPN CORRESPONDENT - If hope has a season, it is spring. If memory has a color, it is gold. And if Time has a shape, it is a ripple, a wave. On Little Lake Nellie, 10 years later the ripples still reach the shore.
KIM CREWS, TIM CREWS' SISTER - Still to this day it's hard for me to believe he's gone.
TIM CREWS - Open up your other eye and look at me.
RINALDI - Long before his Tampa High School retired his number, Tim Crews was unnoticed, un-drafted, and undaunted.
KIM CREWS - He had ability but he didn't have a lot of natural ability. Everything Timmy got, he worked for it. He earned it.
JIM CREWS, TIM CREWS' FATHER - He played two years in college and he got drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers, and Tim was stymied in the minor leagues for six years.
RINALDI - Without much money and with a young family, the big leagues seemed distant until 1987.
MLB PLAY-BY-PLAY ANNOUNCER - Tim Crews makes his big league debut for the Dodgers.
K. CREWS - I had just come home from my dad's house and he met me at the front door and told me, your brother's in the big leagues. And we just hugged each other.
JIM CREWS JR., TIM CREWS' BROTHER - And I see Crews, number 52, and it was -- it was something I'll never forget. Because I know what it meant for him to be there.
MLB PLAY-BY-PLAY ANNOUNCER - He is 26 years old, born and raised in Tampa, Florida; and what a way to begin.
RINALDI - Crews spent six seasons as a dependable reliever in L.A. In March 1993, his career took Crews, his wife, Laurie, and their three children to a new team, the Cleveland Indians, and a new bullpen featuring a budding star, who was also a father of three.
STEVE OLIN - Welcome to Baseball Tonight's Plays of the Night. I am Steve Olin of the Cleveland Indians, and tonight I'm going to try to break Kevin McAndrew's record of 55 pieces of gum stuffed into his mouth.
JACK CARSTENS, STEVE OLIN'S GRANDFATHER - He never seemed to have many doubts. He was always very confident. If he got whacked, he'd forget about it and go to the next one.
RINALDI - After setting the record for complete games at Portland State, Steve Olin was drafted by the Cleveland Indians, but few expected him to get past Triple-A.
WINTER - He would say, I'm going to be in the big leagues one of these days. I'd be like, OK, honey.
RINALDI - Olin was called up to the majors for the first time in 1989. But it took until 1992 for him to become entrenched as Cleveland's closer.
MLB PLAY-BY-PLAY ANNOUNCER - That will do it. Olin strikes out two, picks up save number 21.
RINALDI - He finished with 29 saves and newfound security going into 1993.
WINTER - That was the first year we, you know, it was like, we can just enjoy spring training.
RINALDI - March 22 was the Indians' only day off that spring. Tim Crews invited his new teammates to enjoy the day at his 45-acre ranch built by his best friend Perry Brigmond.
BRIGMOND - Well, Tim's dream was to build that ranch out there on Lake Nellie.
J. CREWS JR - He had a big heart and he wanted to be a part of the team, and was going to open his home up to them and let them get to know him a bit.
RINALDI - Only three accepted the invitation, strength coach Fernando Montes came. So did pitchers Bobby Ojeda, Steve Olin, and their families.
WINTER - We were driving forever and got a little turned around and I just kept saying, let's just go home. This is ridiculous. No, no, no. We'll find it. We'll find it. And he was just so excited about spending the day with Bobby Ojeda and Tim Crews.
MONTES - It was an escape from baseball. Even though baseball was still talked about in different aspects, it was just a day away from the job.
RINALDI - That day stretched gently into evening, leading the men to the lake.
WINTER - I really was ready to go home. And Steve said, oh, we're going to go for a ride around the lake. I said, OK, fine, but hurry up. I kind of want to go.
MONTES - So right after dinner we all kind of cleaned up, walked outside, and we all rode down and hitched the trailer up to get ready to launch the boat.
RINALDI - As light faded, Montes and the three pitchers were in the boat ready to fish the lake when...
MONTES - We forgot something up at the house and Perry Brigmond, who was a friend of Tim Crews, had just arrived prior to us going down. And the question was, OK, who is going to go up and get it? Nobody kind of volunteered, so we played this child's game. We called rock, paper, scissors, and I don't recall what my actual one ended up as but, in all I ended up losing.
RINALDI - Moments after that fateful loss, losing that child's game of chance, Fernando Montes lost his seat on that 18-foot bass boat. He stepped ashore and Tim Crews launched his boat onto the water with Steve Olin and Bobby Ojeda sitting alongside. As they circled the lake, Montes and Perry Brigmond watched from the shore and waited.
BRIGMOND - They were going around the lake in the boat. So when I got to the shore, Timmy came back around the lake and put his finger up. And I'll never forget it. He said, Brigmond, one more time, one more time.
RINALDI - A neighbor's dock, longer than 50 yards, sat on the far side of the lake in growing darkness as the boat continued to circle.
BRIGMOND - And as he accelerated, the front of the boat, the nose of the boat rose up beyond their vision and as soon as the boat cleared and planed out, it was too late. They were under the dock.
MONTES - We heard this loud thump and a crash. And it was silence, utter silence.
BRIGMOND - It got dead quiet. And the boat just sat there. And then I heard somebody screaming, help us, we're hurt. We went out to the boat and we realized that they were -- it was terrible.
MONTES - I knew without any hesitation that Steve Olin had passed.
BRIGMOND - And Timmy was sitting in the driver's seat, gasping for air.
RINALDI - Standing in the water, Brigmond tried to understand what had happened to Tim Crews.
BRIGMOND - The first thing I did is went into shock because of what I had seen. Because I seen a dear friend of mine leaving me and I knew it. I mean, I knew he was going to die. From what I seen, he was leaving me. So all I did was pray. It was hard because I seen him accomplish his goals in life, really not all of it, but most of it. And then it was all taken away from him. And I stood there and looked at him and I looked across that lake and I said, what was it worth? It was all for nothing.
RINALDI - Bleeding badly and still in shock, Bobby Ojeda was taken to the hospital and Tim Crews airlifted to Orlando Medical Center.
WINTER - I did know at that point that Bobby and Tim were hurt. And still couldn't get any information on Steve, and so when they told me, I just couldn't believe it.
MONTES - She wanted to come down, so I said, no. No. He didn't make it. I expressed to her that her husband had passed, and did try to keep her back from wanting to go down there.
WINTER - When they took us back to Laurie's house and I remember just sitting there. ... thinking, what am I going to do now?
RINALDI - Steve Olin had died at the scene. Bobby Ojeda would be treated for severe lacerations to his scalp. He would survive. But Tim Crews was in critical condition.
J. CREWS JR. - I wish I could have laid my hand on him and brought him back. That's what I wanted. But I knew -- I knew I was seeing my little brother for the last time. I just knew it.
J. CREWS - I knew he wasn't going to make it, but no matter what his stature in life is, it's your child. You just lose a part of yourself that you're never going to get back.
J. CREWS JR. - Leaving and knowing I left him there and he was -- that he was gone and it's just -- you walk outside and the birds are singing, people are passing by on the street, stopping to get coffee and doughnuts and you see people eating breakfast and you realize every life is speeding by. They have no idea what's just happened. Life goes on but I just lost my little brother.
SCHWARZ - When Outside The Lines returns, we'll look at the factors that caused the accident and who, if anyone, was to blame.
MONTES - We had been drinking. There was no hiding that. There was no reason to. But I also saw someone in front of me through the course of the day who was in charge of their senses who was not drunk.
SCHWARZ - Plus, a look at how the legacy of these two men lives on, including a 10-year-old's perspective on the father he barely knew.
GARRETT OLIN, STEVE OLIN'S SON - Sometimes I wish he was still alive and sometimes I wish he has a nice life up in heaven.
MALE NEWS BROADCASTER - A boating accident last night on a lake not far from the Indians' training camp ...
FEMALE NEWS BROADCASTER - Terrible tragedy in every sense of the word ...
MALE NEWS BROADCASTER - Coaches and fans throughout the country must now say good-bye ...
DAN PATRICK - Cleveland Indians were involved in a one-boat accident at 7:30 this evening ...
WICKANDER - It was not even baseball related. My best friend. He was the best man in my wedding. And the reason I am where I am today is because of him.
RINALDI - The 1993 season had not begun and the Cleveland Indians were a shattered team. Tim Crews, 31, and Steve Olin, 27, were gone. Bobby Ojeda was in the hospital. All three men had suffered head injuries when their boat went under the dock.
JOHN MAROON, INDIANS MEDA RELATIONS DIRECTOR (1990-1994) - Bobby lived because he slouched. He slouched down in the boat and as a result the docks cut his head but didn't kill him.
LT. BRUCE COOPER, FLORIDA GAME AND FRESH WATER FISH COMMISSION - We found three four-inch posts sheared off, so the vessel went under the dock at a high rate of speed.
RINALDI - Why did the accident happen? Ultimately the official report cited four key factors -- boat speed, darkness, the length of an unlit but legal dock, and, fourth, alcohol.
COL. BOB EDWARDS, FLORIDA GAME AND FRESH WATER FISH COMMISSION - Further tests indicated that Mr. Crews had a blood alcohol content of .14 percent at the time of the crash.
RINALDI - According to the state, Crews was operating the boat while legally drunk.
MONTES - We had been drinking. There was no hiding that. There was no reason to. But I also saw someone in front of me through the course of the day who was in charge of their senses, who was not drunk.
WINTER - I can say for certain that if I had thought that they were incapable of, you know, getting on the boat and driving it around with any risk, I would have put my foot down.
RINALDI - News coverage focused on drinking, adding a fuse of anger to the Crews family's grief.
J. CREWS JR. - Just believing a rich ball player out there not paying attention to what he was doing was over the -- drunk, just to use the word, which really infuriated me when I read it.
RINALDI - The accident's sole survivor, Bobby Ojeda, had to cope with his own recovery and pain. Shortly after surgery for severe head lacerations, he left his team, his family, and his country.
BOBBY OJEDA, SURVIVED BOATING ACCIDENT - I certainly went through the why am I here? Certainly. That's a given. I left the country for a while. I had a lot of money in my pocket and I wasn't gonna come back.
MONTES - Where you had Crews, a beautiful family, home, their dream, after years of struggle to success in the major leagues. Steve Olin, new family, beautiful kids, beautiful wife. And in an instant gone. Why not him?
RINALDI -Ojeda came back to pitch in nine games in 1993. Then left the Indians. He retired a year later. Now 45 and a pitching coach in the Mets farm system, Ojeda rarely speaks of the accident. Perhaps expressing his feelings best 10 years ago.
OJEDA - I need to get up. I need to go forward. I need to turn the page. I'll carry around baggage like most people do for the rest of my life. But I can't let it drag me down. And everyone who this incident has hurt and touched and almost destroyed needs to do the same thing, needs to go forward.
RINALDI - The fourth man in the boat that day, who surrendered his seat moments before it launched all because of a game of rock, paper, scissors, has also moved forward. Fernando Montes, now with the Texas Rangers, deals with his own questions of fate and luck and loss to this day.
MONTES - I'm here to do something. I'm not sure what yet. The opportunity to be on that boat was there and I lost and I came off it. I am lucky. There's a plan there, for me, and I'm thankful that I have every day.
RINALDI - The ripples from that March day still reach the families of Steve Olin and Tim Crews, but the shore is closest to the Crews family. His wife, Laurie, still lives there on that ranch overlooking the lake. Their three children, Trisha, Shawn, and Travis, are all athletes and all share their mother's passion for horses. In recent years, Laurie Crews has chosen to keep her memories private. But an hour away from here, another Crews follows the step from dugout to diamond toward his own dream.
CALE CREWS, TIM CREWS' NEPHEW - As I grew up, I kind of compared myself to my uncle and think maybe sometimes he's there with me. You never know. Maybe he is.
RINALDI - Cale Crews was 10 years old when his uncle Tim died, but baseball had already bonded them. Now a switch-hitting first baseman at Florida College and a budding pro prospect, he tries to play and live by a message his uncle left him, keep working hard. It's all worth it. Love, Uncle Tim.
J. CREWS JR. - I have caught him in there sometimes just kind of staring. He would be on his bed, and he's not really looking at television, he's looking over there at that photograph.
C. CREWS - All that hard work finally paid off for him. He got what he wanted. That's exactly what I want. I want to get there one day. Hopefully get to that pinnacle and play major baseball like my uncle Tim.
K. CREWS - Cale has a lot of potential and a lot of ability. And if he works hard like Tim, he might make it.
RINALDI - While the game still bears hopes here for the Crews family, its memories still bind the Olin family.
WINTER - It doesn't seem like it was 10 years ago.
G. OLIN - I'm just going to tell them what a great daddy he was and what a great husband he was.
RINALDI - After the accident, Steve Olin's widow, Patti, spent the 1993 season in Cleveland then went home to Portland, Oregon. With year-old twins and a 3-year-old daughter.
WINTER - How do you tell a 3-year-old that daddy is not coming back? I don't know at what point she finally figured it out.
RINALDI - By 1996, life and love came back to her in the form of Billy Winter, the man she would marry, who shared a certain connection with Steve.
WINTER - They actually played against each other. Steve played for Portland State and Billy played for University of Portland.
SHIRLEY OLIN, STEVE OLIN'S MOTHER - It's what Steve would want. I know in my heart that when Billy gets to where Steve is now, Steve will be the first one behind God waiting to shake Billy's hand for loving his children and loving his wife.
RINALDI - At Patti's wedding to Billy, Steve Olin was there in spirit and in family.
WINTER - Steve's dad walked me down the aisle.
S. OLIN - By him being asked to walk her down the aisle we were showing everybody that, yes, we are all healing. We are all together and we are all going to make it through this.
STEVE OLIN'S FATHER - Ooh, I love those hugs.
RINALDI - The Portland home is vibrant with family and children. Oldest daughter Alexa, twins, Garrett and Kali, and newest addition, Sam. In one of the twins, Steve, seems especially present.
WINTER - If you look at Garrett, he's there.
G. OLIN - I just miss my dad a lot and sometimes I just try to forget about him but it's too hard to forget because I miss him a lot.
RINALDI - Although Garrett was an infant when his father died, dad's old glove sits on his bedroom shelf, his old jerseys hang above where he sleeps.
G. OLIN - This one here is my dad's when he was in college. And this one when he was in pro league. And I have them up here to remind myself that I have a dad that's a professional baseball player. And I have them up there, also, to remind me of my dad up in heaven.
WINTER - I can talk about how great he was. I can talk about how he was as a player. I can talk about how he was as a father. How he was as a son, how he was as a friend, all that's easy. But just recently the kids have been saying, what do you think he'd be doing right now, where do you think we'd be if dad was still here? I miss that he doesn't get to be with his kids. I miss that they don't get to be with him.
SCHWARZ - Because the tragedy took place on the Indians' only day off that spring, the team did not schedule another off day during spring training for seven years. Among the Indians, the emotional scars were felt, perhaps, most deeply by reliever Kevin Wickander whose best friend was Steve Olin. Not two months after the accident, Cleveland traded the distraught left-hander to the Reds. And three years later, he was out of the big leagues for good. Recently Wickander has battled substance abuse and has lost his freedom and his family. He's currently serving a three-year prison term for theft. In a recent phone interview he told ESPN that March 22, 1993, the day he lost Steve Olin, remains the most devastating day of his life.
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