It’s been 9 years to the day when the landscape of the Cardinals clubhouse made a drastic change. No one could have seen it coming. No one would have ever predicted it. But every Cardinals fan old enough to remember the events of June 18-22, 2002, will be able to tell the story.
Jack Buck, beloved voice of the Cardinals for almost 50 years, had been in the hospital for treatment on a variety of ailments, from his well publicized Parkinson’s disease to lung cancer to an intestinal blockage. On June 18th, Cardinals ace Darryl Kile left the mound at Busch Stadium after 8 strong innings against the Anaheim Angels. The 7-2 win over the AL West foes pushed the Cardinals into first place in the NL Central. Little did Cardinal fans know that their world was about to change.
A few hours after the game ended, the news started circulating that while the Cardinals were battling for first place, Jack had been battling for his life, and that battle had ended. My family was on vacation in Yellowstone when I heard the news, and I felt like a little piece of me was gone. We watched some of the funeral proceedings from our hotel room before venturing out for more sightseeing, but I was thinking about Jack.
On June 22, Jack’s funeral was in the past, and the team was foraging on, his memory burned in their minds. The Cardinals were in Chicago to play those lovable losers in the Cubs. Still out West, my family had some downtime at the hotel, and we turned on the game. Or at least, we thought it was the game.
We watched, stunned, as Joe Girardi from the Cubs strode up to a microphone and announced that the game would be postponed due to a tragedy in the Cardinals family. The emotion visible on Girardi’s face told us all that something had gone horribly wrong. When we later learned of Darryl Kile’s passing due to a heart attack, those same emotions from just a few days earlier came flooding back. It is a memory I will never forget.
I can’t believe it has been 9 years.
I wrote more about Darryl Kile for i70 Baseball today. Please head over there and check out more about his life, his death, and his legacy.
I’ll end today with a poem by Jack Buck. Baseball is life, and the lives of Jack Buck and Darryl Kile will be remembered by the baseball community for years to come.
By Jack Buck
When someone asks you your favorite sport
And you answer Baseball in a blink
There are certain qualities you must possess
And you’re more attached than you think.
In the frozen grip of winter
I’m sure you’ll agree with me
Not a day goes by without someone
Talking baseball to some degree.
The calendar flips on New Year’s Day
The Super Bowl comes and it goes
Get the other sports out of the way
The green grass and the fever grows.
It’s time to pack a bag and take a trip
To Arizona or the Sunshine State
Perhaps you can’t go, but there’s the radio
So you listen-you root-you wait.
They start the campaign, pomp and pageantry reign
You claim the pennant on Opening Day
From April till fall
You follow the bouncing white ball
Your team is set to go all the way.
They fall short of the series
You have a case of the “wearies”
And need as break from the game
But when Christmas bells jingle
You feel that old tingle
And you’re ready for more of the same.
It will be hot dogs for dinner
Six months of heaven, a winner
Yes, Baseball has always been it.
You would amaze all your friends
If they knew to what ends
You’d go for a little old hit.
The best times you’re had
Have been with your Mom and your Dad
And a bat and a ball and a glove.
From the first time you played
Till the last time you prayed
It’s been a simple matter of love.