06/23/2002 6:26 pm ET
Shock and sorrow for St. Louis fans
Fans create memorial for Darryl Kile
By Jared Hoffman / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- In one respect, Busch Stadium appeared as it often does on a Sunday afternoon with fans clad in Cardinals red milling around outside.
In every other respect, it was different. The Cardinals are out of town and the excitement and laughter of a game day has been replaced by shock and sorrow as St. Louis fans gathered outside of Busch Stadium at a memorial site for Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile, who was found dead in his Chicago hotel room Saturday.
Kile's death came a few days after the death of Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck and many fans said it has made for the saddest week in St. Louis sports history.
"This has been a tragic week in St. Louis history -- not just in sports but just in the entire St. Louis area as well," said Eric Randall, who said he has lived here all of his 38 years. "I couldn't believe it -- a nice man in his 30s to die so young. The Cardinals have been hit by another tragedy just 24 hours after Jack Buck was buried."
At Kile's memorial site -- just abut 50 feet away from the one for Buck -- fans have left flowers, balloons, pictures, letters, baseball caps, posters and other personal items.
Jacob Leach, a young Cardinals fan, and his little brother Ethan brought a Cardinals cap on which they wrote, "Darryl, you will be missed -- Jacob and Ethan" as well as Kile's No. 57. "My grandma and grandpa told me about Darryl and I was just shocked," Leach said.
Timothy Grossius came with a group of people that included his young son Dalton. "My little son Dalton here looks up to Darryl and got his autograph," said Grossius. "He wanted to come here and lay a flower down for Darryl and his family. I'm in disbelief. Our prayers go out to his wife, Flynn, and his three children."
Dwight Turner, who has been a Cardinals fan for many years, said, "It's a devastating week, I guess the toughest for a Cardinals fan that I can ever remember in my lifetime. Just a couple of real class individuals that we lost this week.
"With Jack, we were kind of expecting it because he had been ill for so long and even though we were pulling for him to come through and be able to join us again, we were not surprised by that news, but Darryl Kile was just totally devastating."
Among the messages fans were leaving for Kile at his memorial site were "Darryl Kile -- You are a Winner!" -- a play on Buck's signature phrase of "That's a winner" after Cardinals victories.
Cathy Eiler, who is from Sacramento and visiting St. Louis, stopped by the memorial sites for Buck and Kile and said the city's sorrow is obvious. "You can tell how it's really taken the city -- it has been such a grief-stricken week for St. Louis," said Eiler. "Our hearts go out to the people here. I can definitely see what it has done to the people of St. Louis and the impact it has had."
Eilers added that the memorial sites for each were full of emotion. "It tugs at your heart," said Eilers. "It's nice for people to be able to grieve publicly and say goodbye in some way."
Kile is believed to be the first Cardinals baseball player to die during the season. In June of 1922, Cardinals outfielder Austin McHenry was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and he died Nov. 22 of that year. Outfielder Charlie Peete played in 323 games for the 1956 Cardinals and was killed with his wife and three children in a plane crash while traveling to Caracas, Venezuela, to play winter ball on Nov. 22, 1956.
In 1977, two athletes from St. Louis pro sports teams died just before and after their respective seasons. St. Louis Blues defenseman Bob Gassoff was killed in a motorcycle accident on May 29, 1977 just after completing his NHL rookie season. Two months later on July 22, J.V Cain, a tight end for the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals, collapsed during light training camp drills and died a few hours later with no cause ever determined.
For many fans, the fact that Kile was only 33 and apparently died of natural causes is what makes his death so hard to believe.
"It's such a shock," said Cardinals fan Russ Adams. "It seems as if he was one of the most respected and best conditioned guys on the team."
Jared Hoffman is an editorial producer for MLB.com based in St. Louis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.