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Yordano Ventura Among Many MLB Players Lost Too Soon

Tragedy has struck MLB many times over, leaving fans wondering what could have been if star athletes weren't stolen from the diamond prematurely.
Image: Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura delivers a pitch during the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, in Boston, Aug. 28, 2017.
Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura delivers a pitch during the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, in Boston, Aug. 28, 2017.Greg M. Cooper / USA Today Sports/Reuters

The baseball world was reeling Sunday amid news that one of its ascending young stars was killed in a weekend car accident in the Dominican Republic.

Details about the death of Kansas City Royals’ pitcher Yordano Ventura, 25, were not immediately available, but teammates and rivals alike posted heartfelt messages on social media, while outside Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, somber fans mourned alongside growing piles of flower bouquets and baseballs.

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura delivers a pitch during the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, in Boston, Aug. 28, 2017.Greg M. Cooper / USA Today Sports/Reuters

In a Twitter post, Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper called it a “very sad day in baseball,” while Christian Colon, a Royals shortstop, offered a testimonial: “I knew the struggle you had to overcome to get to where you were and I could always see in your eyes that you wanted more. I knew your secrets and I knew your strengths. I knew anytime you needed a teammate to help you with something, that teammate would be me. I’m so happy to be able to say I knew you.”

Ventura signed with the Royals in 2008 as a non-drafted free agent. He debuted five years later and helped the team win consecutive World Series in 2014 and 2015.

His death comes just four months after a boating accident claimed the life of another young baseball hero — José Fernández, the Cuban-born two-time All Star who had a child on the way and had become a citizen only the year before.

But as shocking as their deaths are, Major League Baseball is a sport that knows tragedy well. Here's a look back at some of the sport's spectacular athletes who were stolen from the diamond too soon.

Lou Gehrig.AP

First baseman LOU GEHRIG died at age 37 from the disease that would be named for him on June 2, 1941, after 17 seasons with the New York Yankees. Over those 17 seasons, "The Iron Horse" played in 2,130 consecutive games — a record not broken for 56 years.

For most of those seasons, he followed Babe Ruth in the Yankees' lineup, making up the greatest one-two punch in baseball history. He won six World Series with the Yankees and two American League MVP awards, according to Major League Baseball, and in 2007, he was ranked the greatest first baseman of all time in a national fan vote.

On May 2, 1939, Gehrig took himself out of the lineup because of what would be revealed to be the incurable neuromuscular disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, now widely known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He retired 50 days later, leaving a packed Yankee Stadium crowd with the famous words, "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth."

Roberto Clemente #21 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a circa 1960s publicity photo. Clemente spent his entire career with the Pirates, from 1955-72.MLB Photos via Getty Images

ROBERTO CLEMENTE was killed in a plane crash while en route from Puerto Rico to Nicaragua to assist with earthquake relief on New Year's Eve in 1972.

The 38-year-old's body was never recovered, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Clemente had spent 18 seasons playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, recording his 3,000th career hit in his last game of the 1972 season. He was only the 11th player to do so at the time.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973, during a special election that waived the typical five-year waiting period.

Thurman Munson of the New York Yankees.Focus On Sport / Getty Images

THURMAN MUNSON was also killed at 32 in an airplane crash while he was practicing landing in Ohio in 1979.

The Yankees catcher had been with the team for 11 years, leading it to three American League pennants and two world championships, according to the Thurman Munson estate.

He was named Rookie of the Year in 1970, Most Valuable Player in 1976 and team captain — the first since Lou Gehrig.

Lyman Bostock.

LYMAN BOSTOCK, a California Angels outfielder, was murdered four seasons into his career in 1978.

The 27-year-old was shot and killed while sitting in car in Gary, Ind., while on an excursion to his hometown after playing a game against the Chicago White Sox, according to MLB.

Former prosecutor Jack Crawford described the tragedy as "the classic instance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time," MLB reported.

He had the second-best batting average in the American League in 1977.

"The worst ever was just seeing his lifeless body lying there and thinking, 'What a waste.' It didn't get any worse than that," his wife, Yuovene Whistler, told Bob Costas in a 2013 documentary, "The Lyman Bostock Story."

Bostock's killer, Leonard Smith, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and avoided prison, but he was released from a mental facility six months later after being declared sane, according to MLB.

Cleveland pitchers STEVE OLIN and TIM CREWS were killed when their boat struck a pier about 25 miles from Orlando, Florida, during spring training in 1993, according to a New York Times article from the time.

Olin, 27, was killed instantaneously. Crews, 31, died at the hospital from a fractured skull and other internal head injuries. Each had three children.

Bobby Ojeda, also a pitcher for the Indians, was on the boat and lost four pints of blood but survived. He is now 58.

Rockies Darryl Kile pitches against St. Louis Cardinals.Hyoung Chang / Denver Post via Getty Images

DARRYL KILE, who pitched for three teams during his major league career, was a St. Louis Cardinal at the time of his death in Chicago, where he was staying ahead of a game against the Cubs.

Before that game started on June 22, 2002, Joe Girardi, the Cubs' catcher, told restless fans that the delayed game had been canceled. "I thank you for your patience," Girardi said. "We regret to inform you because of a tragedy in the Cardinals family, the commissioner has canceled the game today," he said, according to MLB.

What he knew that he couldn't tell the fans was that Kiles had died at age 33 from a heart attack. He had suffered from 90 percent blockage in two coronary arteries near his heart, according to MLB.

The Cardinals struggled in subsequent games until manager Tony La Russa read the team an article in which Kile had recounted the premature death of father.

"I don't think I'll ever get over it, but my father was my best friend," Kile said. "But in order to be a man, you've got to separate your personal life from your work life. It may sound cold, but I've got work to do. I'll never forget my father, but I'm sure he'd want me to keep on working and try to do the best I can do."

According to MLB, La Russa said to the team: "He just told us what we have to do."

Cory Lidle of the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Yankees.Rich Pilling / MLB Photos via Getty Images

Yankees pitcher CORY LIDLE was killed in 2006 when a plane he was in slammed into a 50-story building on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

Lidle had told teammates that he planned to fly in his Cirrus SR20 home to California after the Yankees were eliminated from post-season play, according to MLB.

The flight instructor on the small plane was also killed.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation revealed that the crash was due to a pilot error, but the NTSB couldn't determine whether Lidle or the flight instructor was flying the plane at the time.

Lidel had a 6-year-old son at the time of his death at age 34, according to The Associated Press.

St. Louis Cardinals' rookie outfielder OSCAR TAVERAS was killed two years ago in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. The 22-year-old was one of the top-rated prospects in the league.

After José Fernández's death last year, Yorlando Ventura paid tribute to the two players, scrawling their initials — "O.T." and "J.F."— on his blue baseball cap beside a simple message: "RIP."