Darryl Kile

June 22, 2002: Darryl Kile passes away

Just five days after longtime radio broadcaster Jack Buck passed away, the Cardinals were dealt another blow with the sudden passing of 33-year-old pitcher Darryl Kile.

On June 23, 2002, Kile was found dead in the bed of his Chicago hotel room after teammates became concerned that he hadn’t arrived at Wrigley Field for the Cardinals’ game against the Cubs. When Kile hadn’t appeared in time for the Cardinals’ on-field stretching, team officials called the hotel and asked the staff there to check Kile’s room. Hotel employees entered his room at 12:30 p.m. and found him still wearing the eyeshades he wore to sleep.

“It appears he died in his bed,” Chicago police spokesman Carlos Herrera said.[1]

Kile had eaten dinner with his brother the night before at Harry Caray’s restaurant. Around 10:30 p.m., he told teammate Edgar Renteria that he was tired and going to bed.[2] The following morning, Kile’s wife Flynn was unable to reach her husband and called Robin Veres, the wife of Cardinals relief pitcher Dave Veres. When the Cardinals realized that Kile had passed away, it was Robin Veres who called Flynn to break the news.[3] The Kiles had three young children together.




The Cardinals players learned of Kile’s passing as they concluded batting practice. Catcher Mike Matheny and pitcher Woody Williams led the team in prayers.[4]

“The news devastated our club,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “There was no bigger leader on our ball club in every way.”[5]

Fans had already arrived for that day’s game when the decision was made to cancel. With his teammates behind him, Cubs catcher Joe Girardi informed the Wrigley Field crowd that the game had been postponed due to a tragedy in the Cardinals family.

“You will find out eventually what happened,” Girardi said.[6]




Kile’s passing was particularly devastating due to his key leadership role on the club. A late bloomer, Kile was a natural lefthander but began pitching with his right hand at age 10 because his father’s glove, the only one the family owned, was for righthanders.[7] Kile didn’t make his high school’s varsity baseball team until he was a junior, and after he graduated without any college scholarship offers, he played at Chaffey (Calif.) Junior College.

By his sophomore year, Kile had added 30 pounds and seen his fastball leap from 80 to 90 mph.[8] The Astros made him a 30th-round draft choice in 1987, and two years later the 20-year-old Kile had already reached Triple-A.

In 1990, Kile had to make a significant adjustment when the Astros banned the slider in their minor league system. Instead, Kile developed a curveball, experimenting with his grip during the offseason by throwing against the brick wall of a local high school.

“And then it happened,” he said. “The break on the curveball was there. I didn’t know what a hitter would think about it or do with it, but it looked the way I wanted it to. I didn’t know how good it really was.”[9]




The pitch became Kile’s signature. In 1991, he made his major-league debut, and in 1993 he won 15 games and was selected for the all-star game. In 1997, his final year with the Astros, Kile went 19-7 with a 2.57 ERA. In addition to earning his second career all-star nod, Kile placed fifth in the National League Cy Young Award voting.

That offseason, Kile signed as a free agent with the Rockies, where the thin mountain air flattened out his curveball. Rather than complain, however, Kile continued to battle. On November 16, 1999, the Cardinals traded four pitchers to the Rockies for Kile, Veres, and Luther Hackman.

Kile soon emerged as a leader in the Cardinals’ clubhouse and on the mound. In his first season in St. Louis, he went 20-9 with a 3.91 ERA, once again finishing fifth in the Cy Young Voting. In 2001, he went 16-11 with a 3.09 ERA.

“He was a guy who loved to compete and loved to win,” Jocketty said. “He’s a guy who worked in the clubhouse. You could just see the work he did with a lot of young guys. He was very close to them.”[10]




“This has been a very difficult week with the loss of Jack Buck and now the loss of Darryl Kile,” Jocketty added. “There is going to be a real tough mourning period for the Cardinal organization and the citizens of St. Louis. We all have a job to do. We have to try to be strong and battle through this and find a way to go on. I’m sure Darryl would definitely want us to go on, compete, and try to win our division.”[11]

On June 23, the Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled that Kile probably died of atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries around the heart.[12]

“It doesn’t seem real,” relief pitcher Gene Stechschulte said.[13]

Longtime St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz felt the same way.




“Shock. Numbness. Anguish. Disbelief. Confusion,” he wrote. “Tell us this isn’t true, tell us that this is a mistake. Tell us that Darryl Kile will be on the mound at Wrigley Field on Sunday night to stare in at home plate with those steely eyes and grim expression, just before he rocks and throws a swooping curveball that makes hitters curse the very existence of gravity.”[14]

Instead, the Cardinals returned to the field on Sunday with rookie Jason Simontacchi on the mound. Out of respect for Kile, the team did not fill his place on the roster and played with just 24 active players.

“One of the most outstanding things about Darryl was his refusal to miss a start,” La Russa said. “He wasn’t going to start, so we’re going to give it our best shot. It’s important for us that we play, but it’s more important to respect Darryl and play tonight. That’s what he did his whole career.”[15]

Conscious of the solemnity of the moment, the Cubs hosted the game without organ music outside the seventh-inning stretch, and the center-field scoreboard featured Kile’s number 57 throughout the game. The team pennants that flew on both foul poles were positioned at half-staff.[16] The Cubs won the game, 2-0.




On Tuesday, June 25, the Cardinals played their first home game since Kile’s passing. The day began with a memorial service in which owner Bill DeWitt Jr., former Cardinals pitcher Rick Horton, Williams, Matheny, and Flynn Kile spoke. The Cardinals honored Kile with a 10-minute tribute prior to the game.

“Clearly, it was right for the team to play,” DeWitt said. “Darryl Kile never missed a start. This is what he would have wanted the team to do.”[17]

The Cardinals played the remainder of the season with a black circle patch on their left sleeves that read “DK57” in Kile’s honor. The club went on to win 97 games that season, sweeping the Diamondbacks in a three-game NLDS to advance to the NLCS.





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[1] Joe Strauss and Rick Hummel, “Cards pitcher Darryl Kile is found dead in Chicago,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2002.

[2] Joe Strauss and Rick Hummel, “Cards pitcher Darryl Kile is found dead in Chicago,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2002.

[3] Joe Strauss and Rick Hummel, “Cards pitcher Darryl Kile is found dead in Chicago,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2002.

[4] Joe Strauss and Rick Hummel, “Cards pitcher Darryl Kile is found dead in Chicago,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2002.

[5] Joe Strauss and Rick Hummel, “Cards pitcher Darryl Kile is found dead in Chicago,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2002.

[6] Rick Hummel, “Uneasiness foreshadowed the stunning announcement,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2002.

[7] Vahe Gregorian, “Cards lose a ‘gamer,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2002.

[8] Vahe Gregorian, “Cards lose a ‘gamer,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2002.

[9] Vahe Gregorian, “Cards lose a ‘gamer,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2002.

[10] Joe Strauss and Rick Hummel, “Cards pitcher Darryl Kile is found dead in Chicago,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2002.

[11] Joe Strauss and Rick Hummel, “Cards pitcher Darryl Kile is found dead in Chicago,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2002.

[12] Joe Strauss and Deborah L. Shelton, “Kile’s heart was enlarged 25 percent,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 25, 2002.

[13] Joe Strauss and Rick Hummel, “Cards pitcher Darryl Kile is found dead in Chicago,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2002.

[14] Bernie Miklasz, “Kile, Cardinal Nation suffer cruel fate in a most tragic week,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2002.

[15] Rick Hummel, “Respect for Kile spurs decision to play,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 24, 2002.

[16] Joe Strauss, “Cardinals pray, try to play as they struggle in defeat,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 24, 2002.

[17] Joe Strauss, “Cardinals pray, try to play as they struggle in defeat,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 24, 2002.

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