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PHILADELPHIA -- After the initial disbelief, then the sadness and reality of Josh Hancock's death early Sunday morning, Phillies reliever Geoff Geary forced a smile and told of the pitcher's fun-loving side.
"He was a prankster," Geary said, of the Cardinals reliever who was killed in an automobile accident early Sunday morning. "He was always doing things to get under my skin."
With that, Geary, who roomed with Hancock in 2004 at Spring Training, launched into the tale of an unfortunate rental-car incident during their time spent together in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in '03 and '04, and briefly with the Phillies.
"Once in Spring Training, he got the keys to my rental car, and stuck baby powder in the vents," Geary said. "When I got in the car, I noticed there was baby powder all over the center console. If you're going to pull a prank, at least try to clean up your mess. But the only way to clean out the vents is by turning on the air conditioning. You'd be amazed by the smoke screen. So of course, he got the last laugh, watching me try and clean out the mess."
Geary, who had planned to get Hancock back with a cricket-laden prank, was one of many Phillies who knew Hancock from his two seasons in the organization after he was acquired before the 2004 season. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley passed through Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Ryan Madson spent 2003 in the Red Barons' starting rotation with Hancock.
Madson confessed to being Hancock's sidekick for such antics, but remembers the helpful side.
"He helped me out a lot when I came up [in 2004] because he had already been in the big leagues," Madson said. "My heart goes out to his family."
"Ryan and I looked at each other, and we were kind of quiet today," Geary said.
Dealt to the Reds on July 30, 2004, Hancock got his first Major League win in an unusual way. Acquired after a game against Houston was suspended at 10:42 p.m. ET, he made it to Cincinnati the next day in time to pitch in the 11:30 a.m. completion of that game. In that 3-2 victory, he threw a scoreless 13th inning.
Hancock didn't even meet then-Reds manager Dave Miley until he returned to the dugout after that inning. Released by the Reds in 2006 during Spring Training, he was snapped up by the Cardinals, and became a contributor to the 2006 World Series champions.
"I was jealous," Geary said. "He was with Boston when they went to the playoffs, too. I was like, 'Gosh, that guy is so lucky.' He contributed a lot to that team. It's a weird situation to realize he was here one minute and he's gone now. It's tough to take."
This is the second former Phillie to die since the 2006 season ended. Players also felt the loss of Cory Lidle, who died Oct. 11, 2006, in a plane crash in New York City.
"It's so much worse when you lose somebody you know," Brett Myers said. "It's that much tougher to swallow. It's hard on you, but I just feel for his family and everybody who he's influenced."