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Cubs: Kile's death a wakeup call
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06/23/2002 7:52 pm ET 
Cubs: Kile's death a wakeup call
By Carrie Muskat /

Joe Girardi represented the Cubs in announcing the decision to cancel Saturday's Cardinals-Cubs game. (Stephen J. Carrera/AP)
CHICAGO -- Darryl Kile's death not only stunned the Chicago Cubs players but scared them.

"As athletes, we take a lot of things for granted," Cubs second baseman Delino DeShields said. "Our minds are occupied with this game. (His death) makes you check yourself. That could've been any of us in that hotel room."

The St. Louis Cardinals pitcher was found dead in his hotel room Saturday, just hours before his team was to play the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Saturday's game was postponed but both teams decided to carry on Sunday and play.

Kile, 33, a father of three young children, including a son who will turn one in August, was scheduled to pitch Sunday night.

"I think for me the toughest thing is imagining someone having to call your wife and your kids and to tell them, 'Daddy's not coming home,'" Cubs catcher Joe Girardi said, choking back tears.

"It was complete shock," Cubs catcher Todd Hundley said. "Just total, utter shock. A guy this young -- it just goes to show we're not invincible. We think we are and we're not. This is tragic.

"It's very sobering," Hundley said. "Unfortunately, for this to happen it does put everything in perspective. It's a game. And that's all. We've lost one of our brothers and we were in a complete daze (Saturday). There's no way from the time they told us (Saturday) that playing the game was an option.

"We've lost one of our family members," Hundley said. "We have to acknowledge that somehow, someway in an appropriate way."

The Cubs players held a brief service with representatives from Baseball Chapel before Sunday's game.

"When is the appropriate time to carry on? If the Cardinals are OK with it, then that's the appropriate time," Hundley said. "It's going to be different, that's for sure."

"We have to continue to do our job," Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa said.

Sunday's game was to be played with none of the hoopla normally surrounding a Cubs-Cardinals contest. Kile's No. 57 was the only thing on the scoreboard's electronic marquee. The flags were at half-staff and the Cardinals' team flag was on the right field foul pole where Ernie Banks' flag usually was.

"We've been through a number of these before, the passing of (broadcaster) Harry Caray a few years ago and the passing of (broadcaster) Jack Brickhouse during the season and none of these are pleasant," said John McDonough, Cubs vice president of marketing and broadcasting. "You're hoping really good judgement will prevail."

Cubs manager Don Baylor recalled the shock he felt when his then California Angels teammate Lyman Bostock was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in 1978.

"I know across town, 1978, at Comiskey Park, there was a player who made the last at-bat in a ballgame in the ninth inning, Lyman Bostock," Baylor said. "There was a tying run on first or second, he grounded out in disgust. He had a lot of family members there (from Gary, Ind.). He showered in five minutes and I asked him, 'Did you shower?' He was still dripping wet.

"I know how difficult that is because we played the game the next Sunday," Baylor said. "It was the toughest thing I ever had to do.

"My heart goes out to the guys on the other side," he said. "Your locker's next to him, you had lunch with him, or he touched you in a different way. It's a difficult thing to do."

Bostock's death was in September, close to the end of the season. Kile's death is near the mid-season point. How will the players handle it?

"It takes time, it really does," Baylor said. "Sure, you go out and players are professional enough to do their jobs, but it still takes time to go back to the routine that they always had. You're always going to be thinking about your former teammate."

Baylor spent Sunday reflecting on the tragic events. He had recruited Kile, then a free agent, to Colorado in 1998.

"I remember how I strong-armed him to pitch in Colorado," Baylor said. "I convinced (Rockies owner) Jerry McMorris to pay whatever it was that (Kile) wanted to keep him there in Colorado. It was a great experience to have him on my team."

The Cubs are home for the rest of the week. Their next road trip will be tough.

"We've been in and out of hotels all the time," Baylor said. "I remember when (Don) Drysdale passed away in Montreal, that it affects everybody. I was talking to (WGN radio broadcaster) Ron Santo and he thinks about it every time he latches the (hotel room) door behind him on the road.

"Everybody tries to be a tough guy on the field," Baylor said, "but we all have feelings and we all have families. Our hearts goes out to the Kile family."

Girardi spent Saturday and Sunday with his wife and two young children. The thought of not being able to play with them, watch them grow up, is more than he could bear.

"I can't imagine calling ...," Girardi said, then his voice trailed off.

It will be tough to get back to life.

Carrie Muskat covers the Cubs for This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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