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June 22, 2012

The BP Wayback Machine

Darryl Kile

by Joe Sheehan

While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audiencesend us your suggestion.

Darryl Kile passed away on June 22, 2002.  Two days later, the piece reprinted below was published as a Daily Prospectus column.
 

I remember August 2, 1979.

I was eight years old, sitting on a stoop with my friend Arthur, when some older kids came by and told us that Thurman Munson had died. We didn't believe them.

Then another kid came by and said the exact same thing. And what were the chances of two kids telling you the same lie on the same muggy August afternoon? I ran home, burst in the door, and told my mother what I'd heard.

It was true, it was horribly, horribly true. Munson wasn't my favorite Yankee, but he was a hero in New York, back when you could call a baseball player a hero and not cringe just a little.

Thurman Munson was the first person I ever mourned.

This is worse. This is so much worse.

I was sitting in a restaurant with my wife Saturday afternoon when my cell phone jumped to life. Jonah Keri's words-"Darryl Kile is dead."-rang just as false as those boys' words had on that August afternoon 23 years ago. Yet, it was true, it had to be true, because while children may joke about such things, adults know better.

Ballplayers don't just die. They're better than that. They're gods we watch on television and cheer on a Saturday afternoon in bright sunshine with a beer in our hand and a smile on our face. They do things we could never do, achieve things we dreamt about as boys, float above us in the ether of our adoration.

Ballplayers don't just die. They retire, take coaching jobs, become icons in broadcast booths, pitchmen for local businesses, legends on a wall in a rural New York museum.

Sometimes, they're struck down, as Munson was, as Lyman Bostock or Mike Darr or Mike Sharperson were, victims of timing and fate and machinery.

They don't just die.

Darryl Kile's death resonates with me, and with so many people I know, because it scares the hell out of us. If a 33-year-old ballplayer can die in his sleep, alone, in a hotel room 2,000 miles away from the people he loves the most, what chance do we have? If Darryl Kile is mortal, what are we?

This past weekend, the cliches about how an event like this "puts baseball in perspective" were tossed around. Frankly, I think a Tuesday morning in September gave us all the perspective on professional sports we'll ever need.

No, Darryl Kile's death doesn't put baseball in perspective. It puts us in perspective. All of us who are a little bit overweight, who don't get as much exercise as we used to, who don't get that checkup or skip that second piece of pie or slip on those cross-trainers.

That's why this is so hard. We can explain a plane crash or a drunk driver or a bullet. We can look at that from afar and know that we'd never be in that situation.

We all know we could be in Kile's shoes. And if being a god doesn't get you a reprieve, what's to protect the rest of us?

--

To Flynn Kile, to three beautiful children, to the many, many people in and out of the game who knew and loved Darryl Kile, my thoughts and prayers, and the thoughts and prayers of the entire Baseball Prospectus family, are with you.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  Darryl Kile

5 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Replacement Cat

That was not a good month for Cardinals fans, as Jack Buck passed away June 18, 2002. The wife and I tuned into the Cardinals game on the radio that day. Joe Girardi earned a spot in my personal HOF when he, a player for the Cubs at that time, picked up the PA microphone and announced the cancellation of that day's Cubs vs. Cardinals game. I can still hear Girardi saying, "Please be respectful," in my ears. We did not find out what happened until hours later.

Jun 22, 2012 04:00 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I loved Kile's story, living in Denver when he was acquired by the Rockies and reading about how he didn't make excuses for his performance and tried so hard to contribute, even with lending other players his red bat.

When he found success in St. Louis I was happy and when he passed, I was very upset. I kept him on my fantasy team for the rest of the year as a tribute.

Jun 22, 2012 06:35 AM
rating: 0
 
JimmyJack

I kept him on my Fantasy team as well. I just couldn't bring myself to drop him, especially after hearing about the DJ who called Flynn Kile and asked her if she had a date as radio stunt turned very bad.

Jun 22, 2012 11:03 AM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

I missed that one...

On another side note, I liked the excerpt about him in Three Nights in August.

Jun 24, 2012 03:46 AM
rating: 0
 
hinnenra

JP - I was at the game where Girardi delivered that very honorable speech. My wife and I were wondering what was going on when the game was seemingly delayed for 45 or so minutes. Girardi was in tears when making that speech, and I have respected him ever since.

I still get teary-eyed whenever I think of Kile.

Jun 22, 2012 07:57 AM
rating: 2
 
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