06/23/2002 02:45 am ET
Astros win, but there's no jubilation
Former teammates grieve over loss of Kile
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Normally an extra-inning victory over a team like Seattle would have made for a happy atmosphere in the Houston Astros clubhouse.
Not this time. No one felt like celebrating.
The death of former teammate and close friend Darryl Kile hit too close to home for the Astros, many of whom had to choke back tears when speaking of the St. Louis pitcher late Saturday night. Some, like first baseman Jeff Bagwell, who drove in the game-winning run with a pinch single in the 12th inning, couldn't speak at all.
Bagwell, one of Kile's closest friends, broke down in tears moments after the game ended and, for the first time in 13 years, didn't make himself available to the media after the game. Bagwell's grief was mirrored in the Houston clubhouse, as others appeared to be numb from the day's tragedy.
"It was a very difficult day; you go back and forth between disbelief and sorrow," catcher Brad Ausmus said. "Everything that has been said about him by his teammates and friends, that hit the nail on the head. His dry sense of humor meshed pretty well with me. He's a genuine person, one of those guys you can't say anything bad about, [and] it makes you wonder why something like this happens."
Craig Biggio, another long-time friend of Kile's, heard about the pitcher's death upon his arrival at Minute Maid Park and was stunned by the news.
"I lost a good friend today. I lost a friend, and I lost a teammate," Biggio said, his voice choked with emotion. "Seven years playing with him, 12 years of friendship ... it's a tough loss. DK is great. He's a great father to his kids. He likes everybody; he wants everybody to do well. He would do anything for you, and he would do anything to help the team."
Houston manager Jimy Williams scratched Bagwell, Ausmus and Biggio from the starting lineup and intended to keep them on the bench unless they were absolutely needed. When the game went extra innings, all three wound up participating. All wanted to do win it for Kile.
"We're people first; they're people first," Williams said. "[A] former teammate, and a good friend to a lot of them, is no longer here. It's that fraternity, too. The things you go through as a baseball player -- there are a lot of failures in this game. Those who have never played don't understand. They think they do, but they don't understand."
Houston pitcher Billy Wagner sat quietly in a chair in the Astros clubhouse, watching ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" as the story on Kile ran. Wagner watched the piece through to its conclusion before walking silently back to his cubicle.
"What can you say when something like this happens?" Wagner said. "He was a great person and a great friend. Everybody liked D.K.
"I remember the day I got called up [to the Astros from the minor leagues] and we went to New York, and D.K. called me up and took me to breakfast. He didn't know me from Adam, and yet he took care of me. That's the kind of guy he was."
Pitcher Roy Oswalt wasn't with the team when Kile pitched for Houston during 1991-97.
"These guys played with Darryl; I never played with him but I did play against him," Oswalt said. "I remember one thing Baggy told me about him, that he'd always want him on his team just because of the competitor that he was. That kind of stuck out today for me."
Outfielder Brian Hunter said he had a "sense of shock" when he heard the news about Kile.
"I couldn't believe it; you want to think it can't be true," Hunter said. "It shook all of us."
Hunter said those who know Kile know the pitcher would have wanted the game to go on, though clearly the Astros did not feel like playing. When they won it, however, there was no doubt who they won this game for: The man who wore No. 57 and whose jersey hung in the Houston dugout during the game.
"I'm sure he's up there smiling right now," Biggio said. "He's my friend ... and I'm going to miss him."
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com based in Houston. He can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.