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Sharperson, Former Dodger, Dies in Crash

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mike Sharperson, a former All-Star infielder who was part of the Dodgers’ 1988 World Series championship team, was killed early Sunday morning in a one-car crash in Las Vegas.

Sharperson, a minor league player in the San Diego Padre organization, was scheduled to leave Sunday on a flight to Montreal to join the Padres. General Manager Kevin Towers said he probably was going to activate Sharperson and place third baseman Ken Caminiti on the disabled list.

Jerry Royster, a former Dodger infielder who was Sharperson’s manager at triple-A Las Vegas, notified Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda of Sharperson’s death by telephone.

Lasorda moaned and then buried his head in his hands and said, “Oh no. God no. No! No!

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“God almighty, what a good guy, what a great guy. He’s like a Milt Thompson, great for a ballclub. Everybody loved him. He never showed one minute of disrespect, never did anything to embarrass the team. Just a wonderful young man.

“I never heard anybody say a bad word about him.”

Charlie Strasser, Dodger trainer, broke the news to the team during its stretching exercises. First baseman Eric Karros tried to fight off the tears, but gave up and headed into the clubhouse. He never came out for batting practice.

“He’s a great guy, one of the nicest guys ever,” Karros said. “That’s the way it’s been since ’93 [when Don Drysdale died in Montreal]. This organization has gone through one thing after another, and it all started here.”

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Sharperson, 34, was driving home when the accident occurred. He was southbound on Interstate 15 at about 2:45 a.m. when he apparently realized he missed his turn onto Interstate 215. A witness said that Sharperson tried to make a right turn onto I-215, but lost control in the rain and went into a dirt median.

Sharperson was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected through the sun roof. He was taken to University Medical Center and died at 5:05 a.m.

“This really, really hurts,” said Royster, who wept at a Las Vegas news conference. “The guys are trying to sort this thing out. Baseball has lost a real friend. Baseball will definitely mourn the death of Mike Sharperson.”

Sharperson, a first-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the secondary phase of the June Draft in 1981, was traded to the Dodgers on Sept. 22, 1987, for starter Juan Guzman. Sharperson enjoyed his finest season in 1992 when he batted .300 and made the All-Star team. He was granted free agency after the 1993 season, but played only seven major league games for the Atlanta Braves after leaving the Dodgers.

“I’m glad he had the news that he was coming up to the big leagues,” said Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president, “because Sharpy was a big-league player. He was a tremendous team player, a tremendous individual.

“He loved the game.”

Lasorda addressed the team again before their game against the Expos and had a team prayer for Sharperson.

“I remember how much he helped me when I came up,” Dodger catcher Mike Piazza said. “He was always pulling for everyone. He didn’t have a vindictive bone in his body.

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“You’ll never forget the guy. I know I won’t.”

Sharperson is survived by his wife, Diane, a nine-month old daughter, 13-year-old son, his mother and father and a brother and sister.

* The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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