06/22/2002 3:05 pm ET
Tragic news: Kile found dead
Cardinals pitcher was 33, father of three
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The death of St. Louis Cardinals veteran pitcher Darryl Kile shocked Major League Baseball on Saturday, and left unanswered one tragic question: How could this happen to a seemingly healthy 33-year-old professional athlete?
Kile, father of 5-year-old twins and a son born last August, was found in his bed at a Chicago hotel, presumably of natural causes. There were no signs of forced entry and no signs of foul play, said Michael Chasen of the Chicago police department.
"It appears he died in his bed, in his sleep," Chasen said.
An autopsy was performed Sunday and medical examiner Dr. Edmund Donoghue planned to issue preliminary results later in the day; however, a spokeswoman for the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office said Sunday afternoon that final autopsy results would not be released Sunday "pending further study." The spokeswoman said there were additional tests that medical examiner Dr. Donoghue wanted to perform.
Loomis said Saturday there was nothing in Kile's routine physicals to give any hint of a problem. However, Kile's father died of a heart attack in 1993 at the age of 44.
The Cardinals became alarmed when several teammates realized he wasn't at the park several hours before Saturday's game, which eventually was postponed. The Cardinals called the hotel, where security had to force its way into the room because of the safety latch on the door.
"This has been a tumultous week, to say the least," said Joe Buck, voice of the Cardinals, in an interview with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa on FOX TV. "News today just hits you in the stomach and keeps on hitting you. It's unbelievable to think that Darryl Kile passed away."
Buck himself and countless sports fans have mourned the passing of Buck's legendary father, broadcaster Jack Buck, for much of the last week. The elder Buck had battled illness for a considerable amount of time. Kile, meanwhile, had been exceptional on the mound in his last start, a Tuesday victory over Anaheim (the day Jack Buck died), and showed no known signs of physical difficulty.
"The news has devastated our club," La Russa said, appearing to be in disbelief and understandable shock. "There was no bigger leader on our ballclub, in every way."
Cardinals players met late Saturday and voted to play Sunday night's game. Late Saturday night, Major League Baseball issued a statement, saying the game would be played at Wrigley Field.
In the statement, Commissioner Bud Selig said, "Mindful of the feelings of Darryl's family, friends and teammates, and after careful discussions with representatives of both teams, I believe it is appropriate that the Cardinals and Cubs should play Sunday night."
Kile was to be the Cardinals' scheduled starter. How the team responds to this tragedy, naturally, was the least of La Russa's worries.
"Right now, it's unanimous in our clubhouse, every concern is about [Kile's widow] Flynn and the children. ... There wasn't one concern about what this does for our club on the field."
Selig said in a statement, "My deepest sympathies go out to Darryl's family, his friends and the St. Louis Cardinals ballclub. All of baseball mourns his passing."
Kile was among the most popular players with his teammates. He played for Houston, Colorado and the Cardinals.
"I couldn't believe it and I still don't believe it," Cubs manager Don Baylor said. "'D.K.'
was a very special player that I had (at Colorado). My respect goes out to his family. It's tough. "All the baseball guys around who knew him, didn't know him, we're all in this together. It's a family."
"Family" meant more to Kile than just his baseball relationships. His young family, which included wife Flynn, meant the world to him.
"In a special Father's Day story on MLB.com, Kile said, "My kids and my wife help me enjoy things other than baseball. I look forward to days off when I can hang out around the house, take the kids somewhere or do something like that."
In his two-plus seasons in St.Louis, Kile quickly adopted another family. He sponsored "Kile's Kids," a program that once a homestand provided kids a chance to meet him and his teammates, watch batting practice and attend the game.
"He's a great competitor, a great leader on our club," said Cardinals general manager and senior vice president Walt Jocketty. "He's one of the players I've grown close to over the years. He's a great father, and you could see with his wife, they were very much in love."
Kile's brother Dan was in Chicago, and Jocketty said they talked to him about the brothers' time together the previous night as all tried to cope with and begin to comprehend this unexpected tragedy.
Saturday's game was scheduled to start at 2:20 p.m. CDT. Around 2:40 p.m., La Russa walked over to the Cubs dugout and met briefly with Cubs player representative Joe Girardi, who then spoke to the sellout crowd at Wrigley Field. Girardi said there had been a "tragedy" in the Cardinals family and asked fans to be "respectful."
He was flanked by the entire Cubs team, who then filed back into the dugout. Fans slowly exited from the ballpark, but many stayed in their seats.
"We wanted to do something that conveyed the solemnity of the situation," Cubs President Andy MacPhail said. "We came up with the idea to get ... the whole team behind them dressed in their whites and have player rep Joe Girardi speak."
Umpire crew chief Mark Hirschbeck also met with team representatives Saturday, then contacted Selig before deciding to postpone the game.
"About 1:30, [Cardinals senior vice president and general manager] Walt Jocketty called me from the hotel to let me know the tragedy that occurred and asked me to talk to Tony," said MacPhail. He then went into the Cardinals clubhouse.
"I don't know that I have the words for it," MacPhail said. "If you had walked through the Cardinals clubhouse, it would hit you square between the eyes."
The tragedy was felt by the sellout crowd as well.
"This really puts it all in perspective," said Peter Athanasakos, a Cubs fan from Chicago who was at Wrigley Field. "When we heard it was Darryl Kile, people were sitting there in shock."
Sally Sievers, a Cardinals fan from St. Louis who was at the game, said her cell phone kept ringing and she didn't know why. Her brother finally contacted her and told her that Kile had died.
"I was physically sick," Sievers said.
Kile had a 133-119 career record over 10-plus seasons in the big leagues. He began his career in the Houston organization, a 30th-round pick in the June 1987 draft. His first year in the Major Leagues was 1991. He threw a no-hitter in 1993 with Houston and was 15-8 that year. He was 5-4 with a 3.72 ERA this year.
Kile joined St. Louis in November 1999 after a seven-player trade with the Rockies. The right-hander had seven winning seasons, including a 20-9 season in 2000, his first in St. Louis.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.