May 22, 2013
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Friday, June 22, 2012
10 years ago today was one of the saddest days in 21st century baseball. Today was the day the Cardinals-Cubs game at Wrigley Field was cancelled due to some news as shocking as it was tragic.
It was on June 22, 2002 that Darryl Kile died.
He was a star NL pitcher who came up with the Astros and had a breakthrough season in 1993. Armed with a big curve, Kile went 15-8 and capped it off by throwing a no-hitter over the Mets in September. He regressed a bit in ensuing seasons, but appeared to regain his stride in 1997, posting a 19-7 mark and receiving his second All-Star team selection.
Then he tested the free agent waters and made a disastrous decision—he signed with the Rockies. His curve flattened out in the thin mountain air, and Kile’s confidence flattened with it. He began to pick on corners almost exclusively—not only at home but also on the road. Thus his walks ballooned, strikeouts shrank—and in Denver balls in play went for hits and homers.
After two horrible seasons there, Kile landed in St. Louis, where he rapidly put the past behind him. In his first season with the Redbirds, Kile enjoyed his first 20-win season in 2000. He followed it up with another fine campaign in 2001.
He was never a dominant pitcher or one of the best of his generation, but he was a dependable quality arm.
When he went to bed on June 21, 2002, he had thrown over 2,000 innings, posted a 133-119 record, and was just 33 years old. Though a definite longshot for Cooperstown, it looked like Kile could enjoy several more seasons as a big league pitcher. He might even make it to 200 wins and beyond.
Instead, he fell asleep, and never woke up. Overnight, Kile died of a heart attack brought on by an undiagnosed heart condition.
It was supposed to be a day game at Wrigley Field. But the Cardinals didn’t understand while Kile wasn’t there. They called back to the hotel, where the staff found his body in bed.
News traveled back to the park, and neither team wanted to play. The Cardinals were clearly in no condition to carry on. Phone calls were made and commissioner Bud Selig gave his approval to postpone it.
In the stands, people were perplexed. I had a friend at Wrigley that day. When it was time for the game to begin, not only was there no one on the field, but there had been no one practicing in advance. Every once in a while you’d see a coach or someone shuffle around. My friend said that a Cardinals fan behind him got a call on his cell phone telling him the rumors of Kile’s death that had hit the sports radio. “What? NO! That can’t be!” is the half of the call my friend heard.
When veteran Cub catcher Joe Girardi told the crowd the game was postponed, he intentionally didn’t say why, because people were still trying to contact all of Kile’s relatives before making any official announcement.
The next day, the teams played a decidedly somber game. There was no music or much in the way of typical in-game festivities. It wasn’t a very festive day. Oh, not that it mattered too much in the bigger scheme, but the Cards lost that game, 8-3.
Adding to the sense of sadness for Cardinals fans, it came just a few days after the death of longtime sportscaster Jack Buck. The team wrote DK57 on their hats, in honor of Kile, whose uniform number was 57. They had Kile’s young son throw out the first pitcher shortly afterwards. When St. Louis clinched the division, they took his uniform on the field for their celebration.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you prefer to just skim things.
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