Sunday, June 23, 2002

Baseball stunned by Kile's death

AP Sports Writer

Houston Astros' Craig Biggio, left, gets emotional during a moment of silence for former teammate and friend Darryl Kile before their game against the Seattle Mariners Saturday in Houston. Beside Biggio are Brad Ausmus, center, and Jeff Bagwell.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        The stunning death of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile brought even baseball's toughest guys to tears Saturday.

        “I think we've all heard what he was like as a teammate, and it's all true,” Colorado Rockies slugger Larry Walker said as he dabbed his eyes. “He was a great guy, was in a good mood all the time and was a professional at everything in life. It's going to be hard to deal with.”

        Kile was found dead at the team hotel Saturday, Chicago police said. He was 33. The pitcher apparently died from natural causes and was found in his bed.

        Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Brad Ausmus, among Kile's best friends when he pitched for the Houston Astros from 1991-97, did not take batting practice and were not in the starting lineup against the Seattle Mariners.

        Kile's Astros jersey — No. 57 — hung in the Houston dugout.

        “It was so hard to play this game,” Biggio said after Bagwell's pinch-hit single beat the Mariners 3-2 in 12 innings. “I lost a good friend today.”

        There were moments of silence at ballparks all around the majors. Two pictures of Kile, with 1968-2002 written across the bottom of the screen, appeared on the scoreboard in Montreal.

        There was another scoreboard tribute to Kile in Philadelphia and the Cardinals flag flew at half-staff at Turner Field in Atlanta.

        “You don't expect a 35-, 34-year-old guy in his prime playing a professional sport to pass away,” Braves pitcher Tom Glavine said. “We all take it for granted sometimes that whatever plans we had for tomorrow we're going to be able to fulfill them. Tomorrow may not come.”

        The Cincinnati Reds' clubhouse went totally silent, and stunned players sat in front of their lockers with stony faces as television sets brought the news. The team quickly called off batting practice and gave players an extra 45 minutes on their own.

        “Even though he's not on the team, you can relate to what they're going through,” Ken Griffey Jr. said. “Today baseball lost a good guy.”

        Walker, who played with Kile for two seasons in Colorado, broke down several times during a brief news conference before the Rockies' game against Tampa Bay. Colorado pitcher Mike Hampton, a teammate of Kile's in Houston, was too emotional to speak and stayed in the clubhouse.

        “I couldn't believe it and I still don't believe it,” said Cubs manager Don Baylor, who managed Kile in Colorado. “DK was a very special player. He was always the perfect teammate to all the guys who played with him.”

        Chicago Cubs pitcher Jason Bere was scheduled to pitch against Kile and the Cardinals on Sunday night.

        “It's just shock,” Bere said. “He's 33 with three kids. I'm 31 with two kids. I can't imagine what that phone call to his wife was like. Just devastating. It's a tragedy.”

        The Cardinals' game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Saturday was called off by commissioner Bud Selig. Other games went on, but many players took the field with heavy hearts.

        “Our hearts are broken,” Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said with tears in his eyes. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Flynn Kile and her children, and Darryl's family.”

        All flags were lowered at Minute Maid Park before Houston's game against Seattle. Art Howe was Kile's first big league manager with the Astros.

        “Tragic, tragic news,” said Howe, now manager of the Oakland Athletics. “Just unbelievable. He pitched for me when he was a kid. He was just a fine young man. It's hard to believe something like this could happen.”

        The Milwaukee clubhouse was unusually quiet three hours before their game against Anaheim at Miller Park. Four Brewers — Curtis Leskanic, Jamey Wright, Mike DeJean and Lenny Harris — played with Kile.

        Many of the Brewers quietly watched the news on television, and Leskanic inscribed the initials “DK” on his cap. New York Mets pitcher Bobby Jones, a teammate of Kile's in Colorado, did the same.

        “This is an extraordinarily sad day in our clubhouse,” Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly said. “There are no words to describe the emotions that run through you when told of news such as this.”

        Pittsburgh Pirates closer Mike Williams spoke for all players.

        “It brings you back to reality. It can happen to anybody at any time. He played for the Cardinals but he was part of the baseball family,” Williams said.


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