Kile found dead in Chicago hotel roomPosted: Saturday June 22, 2002 3:44 PM
Updated: Sunday June 23, 2002 10:24 AM
By Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated
CHICAGO -- On Friday night, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile went to dinner in Chicago with his brother Dan and a group of Dan's friends. By 10 p.m. the 33-year-old Kile had returned to the Cardinals' team hotel, the Westin Michigan Avenue.
He was scheduled to start against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sunday night, and he presumably settled into his corner suite on the 11th floor of the hotel to rest up for his regular between-starts routine the next day.
Kile, a former 20-game winner and one of the most respected players in the St. Louis clubhouse, never made it to Wrigley on Saturday. He was found dead in his room at approximately 12:30 p.m. CST, while his teammates were taking batting practice.
The death was the second in the Cardinals' organization this week.
Kile pitched the Cardinals into first place in the NL Central on Tuesday night, the same night longtime broadcaster Jack Buck died at 77 after a long illness.
"This has been a very difficult week with the loss of Jack Buck and now Darryl Kile," general manager Walt Jocketty said. "There's going to be a mourning period for the Cardinals organization and the people of St. Louis."
"Our club is just totally staggered, I mean, devastated," said manager Tony La Russa, who was visibly distraught. "You need someone smarter than me to explain it because I don't understand it."
Kile apparently died from natural causes and was found in his bed, said Michael Chasen, commanding officer of the Chicago Police's Area Three Homicide. There were no signs of forced entry and no signs of foul play, he said. An autopsy will be conducted Sunday to determine the cause of death.
A "Do Not Disturb" sign dangled from the doorknob facing the hotel hallway, and hotel engineering staff members had to force their way into Kile's room because the safety latch on the inside of the door remained drawn. The pitcher was found in bed, with no apparent signs that he struggled to get up or reached for the phone to call for help. Chicago police estimated that Kile had been in bed 8-to-10 hours.
"He looked like he was asleep in bed," said Jocketty.
Kile's death could not have been more shocking. Until Saturday, the right-hander was presumed to be in good health. However, Kile's father died shortly after suffering a heart attack at the age of 44 in 1993.
Kile passed an annual physical, including routine EKG and blood tests, during spring training. Team physician Dr. James Loomis said Kile had received no unusual medical treatment in recent weeks, nor did he know of any allergies or other conditions that might have contributed to the pitcher's death.
"This usually means it happened quickly and painlessly," Loomis said of the peaceful condition in which Kile was found. "You start to think of heart arrythmias, brain aneurysms, things like that."
The Cardinals became concerned when Kile, one of the team's leaders, failed to arrive at the ballpark by 11 a.m. After several phone calls to Kile's room went unanswered the team asked hotel security to check on him. As players filtered off the field after batting practice word of what happened began to spread through the clubhouse. La Russa gathered the team together and announced, "they found DK dead." Catcher Mike Matheny, who was close to Kile, then led the team in a group prayer.
At 2:37, 17 minutes after the game was scheduled to begin, the entire Cubs team gathered in front of a hastily assembled microphone in front of their dugout on the third-base line. With La Russa standing with head bowed beside him, Girardi told the crowd -- which was heavily stocked with St. Louis fans -- that, "Due to a tragedy in the Cardinals' family today's game has been cancelled."
As the crowd fell silent, La Russa walked across the field back to the Cardinals dugout. By 3:15 the team had filed silently out of the visitors' clubhouse and onto a pair of idling buses that would ferry them back to the Westin.
Several stunned players walked out of the Cardinals' clubhouse without comment soon after the game was called.
The Cubs filed back into their dugout and down the steps into the clubhouse runway and then an official announcement was made in the press box that the game was off and will be made up later.
The teams will make up the game sometime in August.
"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."
At a team meeting Saturday night -- with grief counselors available -- Cardinals players unanimously voted to play Sunday night against the Cubs. Kile was supposed to start that game.
But the Cardinals said a final decision would not be made until Sunday when they met with Kile's widow, Flynn, who was traveling from San Diego.
"Mindful of the feelings of Darryl's family, friends and teammates, and after careful discussions with representatives of both teams, I believe it is appropriate that the Cardinals and Cubs should play Sunday night," commissioner Bud Selig said late Saturday.
The Cardinals' meeting was an emotional one.
"We talked about how much we missed Darryl," reliever Steve Kline said. "Everybody came up and said something nice about him."
The Kiles had 5-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, and a son who was born last August.
Earlier, Jocketty was asked if it would be hard to play a game that Kile was scheduled to pitch.
"I think," he said, "it will be hard to play for a while."
Kile was 5-4 with a 3.72 ERA in 14 games this season, and had won three of his last four starts. He was known for his strong work ethic.
"Once you take the ball, you've got a job to do," he said after his last start, which put the Cardinals in first place the same night Buck passed away.
Kile, who was 16-11 with a 3.09 ERA and threw 227 1/3 innings last year, had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder during the offseason.
He pitched a no-hitter while with Houston in 1993 against the New York Mets. He was 133-119 in 11-plus seasons, was a three-time All-Star and known for an exceptional curveball.
Kile's best season was 2000, when he went 20-9 with a 3.91 ERA in his first year with St. Louis -- finishing fifth in NL Cy Young voting. He also helped St. Louis advance to the NL Championship Series against the Mets that season.
A 30th-round pick of the Astros in 1987, Kile was called up to the majors in 1991 and went 7-11. He spent his first seven major league seasons with Houston, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young voting in 1997 after going 19-7 with a 2.57 ERA.
Kile signed with Colorado during the offseason and struggled in his two seasons with the Rockies. He led the league in losses with 17 in 1998 and was 21-30 with Colorado.
Montreal third baseman Fernando Tatis played with Kile on the Cardinals and fondly recalled his friend.
"In my mind, I can see Darryl Kile right next to me. We always joked together. I can't believe he's dead," Tatis said before the Expos played Cleveland at Olympic Stadium.
"I have to see it to believe it. We have to realize that he's dead, but in my mind, he's alive because he was one of the greatest," he said.
Many major league teams paid tribute to Kile before games on Saturday night.
The No. 57 jersey he wore in Houston was hanging in the Astros' dugout at Minute Maid Park. There was a moment of silence at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, the Cardinals flag was at half-staff at Turner Field in Atlanta and two pictures of Kile were put on the scoreboard in Montreal.
Deaths among active baseball players have been rare through the years.
San Diego Padres outfielder Mike Darr was killed in a car crash in February while going to spring training.
Perhaps the most remembered deaths were those of Thurman Munson and Roberto Clemente.
Munson, the New York Yankees' captain, was killed when a plane he was piloting crashed Aug. 2, 1979. Clemente was killed Dec. 31, 1972, when his plane carrying relief supplies crashed on the way to Nicaragua.
Cleveland pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews were killed after a boating accident March 22, 1993, during spring training at Winter Haven, Fla. On Nov. 4, 1993, Indians pitcher Cliff Young was killed when his truck crashed in Texas.
Former All-Star infielder Mike Sharperson was killed in a car accident May 26, 1996, while playing for Class AAA Las Vegas. California Angels star Lyman Bostock was killed in a drive-by shooting in Gary, Ind., on Sept. 23, 1978.
Also, umpire John McSherry collapsed on the field two minutes into Cincinnati's opener April 1, 1996, and died at a hospital about an hour later.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.