Mere days after the heartbreaking loss of Cardinal icon and St. Louis ambassador Jack Buck, the city and the franchise were rocked once again. Unlike Buck’s, which was to be expected given his condition leading up to his passing, this one came without warning. The loss of Darryl Kile was a punch to the gut of a team and a fanbase who were still down on one knee trying to move forward after Buck’s memorial service.
I was out in St. Louis on vacation for the weekend, and had planned a trip late that Saturday morning down to a CD Warehouse off of Manchester to visit a friend who was on-shift there that day. After a good time catching up, I was on my way back to my parents’ home to catch the Cards/Cubs game that afternoon, and it was going to be pretty close. KMOX’s pregame was on well in advance of the game, as was/is usual, and nothing seemed the slightest bit out of the ordinary through my Thunderbird’s speakers. I got back to their house probably five to ten minutes before what was scheduled to be first pitch.
I walked in to the broadcast on TV, and it caught me slightly off-guard that there was no coverage of players warming up, starting pitchers in their bullpens, or anything of that sort. At that time, I’m sure I didn’t read too much into it. Then the delay went five, ten, fifteen minutes past scheduled first pitch. Finally, then-Cubs catcher Joe Girardi slowly made his way out of the Chicago dugout to a microphone and said the words that took the breath right out of my parents and I, and so many others.
“I thank you for your patience. We regret to inform you because of a tragedy in the Cardinal family, the commissioner has canceled the game today. Please be respectful. You will find out eventually what has happened, and I ask that you say a prayer for the St. Louis Cardinals’ family.”
I can’t, and won’t ever, truly know how difficult it was for Girardi to step up and make that statement to a packed crowd at Wrigley Field, as well as those tuned in for the national broadcast on Fox. Both the Cubs and Cardinals clubs knew what had happened, and shortly thereafter, we learned the details as well. Kile never woke up from his sleep in the hotel room he was in while in Chicago. A husband and father dead at the young age of 33 from a heart attack (we’d later learn that his father had passed from similar circumstances). The rest of the day just felt numb. The combination of there being no baseball, along with the reason WHY there was no baseball, was overwhelming.
Very shortly after all of this went down, one of the local St. Louis radio stations (either 105.7 The Point or KSHE95, I forget which) put together a brief audio drop paying tribute to the passing of Kile, with the backing music being the opening bars of “Ashamed” by Tommy Lee – which is a somber song lyrically to begin with. I broke down and cried when I heard it, and to this day, I get a little emotional anytime I hear that song.
Ten years later, it still feels quite recent. Now a family man, I have a deeper sympathy for him leaving a family of his own behind, which is something that wouldn’t have crossed my mind back then. There have been many great articles and blogs shared over the last few days recalling memories of Darryl Kile, and one thing is consistent across the board: he was a great player on the field, and an uplifter and motivator in the clubhouse and away from the ballpark. He was the kind of guy everyone should have in their life, and those stories and memories inspire me to do, and be, better.