Game Delayed.

June 22, 2008 at 2:14 pm (Uncategorized)

I got to work a little early yesterday. I knew that the two TV screens in my bar would have a steady crowd around them for the Italy-Spain Euro 2008 match. The Cardinals and Sox would be on national TV as well, though, on TBS, and I’d hoped to catch an inning or two before the soccer game. When I arrived, both screens were showing bowling, of all things, footie fans reluctant to change stations even before the upcoming match. “Let me just check the score”, I pleaded. Someone gave me a remote, and I flipped it over to TBS, and there was a “Game Delayed” logo displayed in the corner. Turns out there were a few thunderstorms around Boston at game time.

Bad day for that to happen.

Six years ago on that same date, I was driving to work wondering what sort of shenanigans were going on at the ballpark since the game hadn’t started yet and Trey Wingo on ESPN radio just said it was delayed. The Cardinals were in Chicago, which is always a fun time, and the game was scheduled for a 1:05 EDT start, broadcast nationally on FOX. We weren’t open for lunch on Saturdays back then, so that shift was kind of a cake shift; I’d answer phones, fix myself a sandwich, and hopefully watch the surging Redbirds take it to the Cubs somewhere inbetween all that.

I got to work and it took all of about 2 minutes for the phone to start ringing.



Art is a friend who I go way back with. He was the head waiter and later manager at the place I started off as a busboy and then a server when I first got into the restaurant biz back in college. Good guy, he and I actually ended up with the same company for a bit, even managing at the same restaurant in a Chicago suburb for a few years. We’d both moved on (and Art, I’ve lost your email, yo…) since then, so I was sort of surprised he’d tracked me down at work.

“Dude, my dad just called from St. Louis. Apparently they’re reporting on KMOX that the delay in the game today is because Daryl Kile is dead.”

My mind does stupid things when confronted by news as shocking and saddening as this. My first thought was how that was really going to screw up the rotation. I flipped on the TV to FOX and saw Joe Girardi–then still the Cubs backup catcher–announce to the restless fans at Wrigley why there’d be no baseball there that Saturday. The network went live with the news. Tony LaRussa barely made it through an interview with an obviously stunned and red-eyed Joe Buck. They switched to a backup game eventually, but the news of Kile’s death, suddenly, of a heart attack in his sleep, was all over that contest as well.

Just five days earlier, Kile had shut down a tough Anaheim Angels squad in interleague play. Kile had just come back from the DL after residual soreness from a minor offseason shoulder operation had convinced him to shut it down for a few weeks. He came back and looked like the Daryl Kile of old, going 8 innings and surrendering only a single run in a Cardinal victory. On baseball tonight that night, Peter Gammons had devoted a special segment to Kile, saying that if he was truly healthy again, the Cardinals were runaway favorites in the NL Central.

Driving home from work that Tuesday night, the crackly static that is KMOX here in DC (yes, you can pick it up on clear nights) announced that Jack Buck had died.

Kile’s death was something of a double-whammy then, but far more shocking. By the start of the 2002 season it was clear that Buck’s health was failing and he hadn’t much time left. Kile on the other hand…Kile was young–32. He was an athlete. Athletes don’t die in their sleep of heart failure.

In the days that followed soon after Kile’s passing, I realized that I’d taken #57 a little for granted. I knew him as a big, resilient pitcher with a nasty curve and a fastball that had tons of movement…that’s it. But his former teammates in Houston and Colorado were as devastated as the Cardinals were. Guys who’d only played a year or so with the guy had to take themselves out of Saturday lineups, so broken up were they. Kile was one of the good guys in the world. Despite some terrible years in Colorado, he never made excuses and always took the ball. When his career was reborn with the Birds On The Bat, he embraced the role of team leader and mentor, taking Matt Morris under his wing and turning the sometimes-erratic Redbird hurler into a staff ace (Morris was never really the same after Kile passed, either).

For Cardinal fans, June 22 will sort of always be our November 22nd. We’ll always remember where we were when we heard, how we reacted, what we did. I got home from work tonight, made it through about 90 seconds of SportsCenter, and had to turn it off. I turned down a movie with some friends and instead sat on my back porch with a beer and just stared at the street for a few hours. Six years have gone by since then, and Cardinal fans have had happier days. Only two players remain with the team from that horrible day in 2002. Still, though, it feels as if it happened so recently. Hard to believe that so much time has passed.

RIP, 57. Cardinal Nation still remembers.

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