View Full Version : Kile is very much on Morris' mind
07-08-02, 07:06 PM
Kile is very much on Morris' mind
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Matt Morris was looking forward to the All-Star break for some physical and emotional healing time. It's been a difficult first half for the Cardinals pitcher.
Morris, 27, is the Cardinals' lone representative at the All-Star Game, but he will not pitch. The right-hander, 10-6 with a 3.55 ERA in 19 starts, is bothered by back spasms.
"I like to compete," Morris said Monday at the players interview session at the Pfister Hotel, "but I think right now the best thing for me is to rest for the second half. It's an honor to be up here and an honor to be around all these guys. But I haven't been throwing the ball well, my back's been hurting a little bit and we all decided it would be best to shut it down for these three days."
A 22-game winner a year ago, Morris ranks among the National League leaders in wins and strikeouts. But he is 0-2 in his last three starts, all since June 22. That's the day teammate Darryl Kile died in a hotel room in Chicago.
"It's been tough," Morris said. "Everybody's taking it differently."
For Morris, it's been a struggle.
"Me, personally, I was pretty close to him," Morris said. "You look to him for advice all the time and some of the things that he told me are still clicking with me, so he's always around. It's hard. He's the missing link on our team -- it just feels weird right now. We'll see what happens. Hopefully we can get stronger."
Kile's locker remains intact in the Cardinals' clubhouse at Busch Stadium.
"His locker is right next to mine and we've got a memorial over there," Morris said. "Just seeing him every day -- they show video and he almost looks real and you want to see him turn the corner. Everybody's still getting used to it."
Kile's death occurred just days after Cardinals longtime broadcaster Jack Buck died. Yet Kile was only 33.
"Jack Buck lived a full life and then to have DK go four or five days later, it was hard on us," Morris said.
The Cardinals, who were in Chicago to play the Chicago Cubs that day, did not play on June 22 but did try to resume their baseball lives in a 8-3 loss at Wrigley Field the next night. Morris doesn't think they were ready to play.
"We should've just forfeited and saved some of our ERAs," he said. "Coming from the hotel, it gave us an eerie feeling and seeing his locker still there with his stuff untouched, it was just a shock for all of us."
Upon returning from Chicago, the Cardinals began a 13-game homestand, so they have not taken a road trip since the tragic event that day. Morris isn't sure he's ready for life without his buddy.
"He was the guy I hung out with all the time," Morris said. "I don't know what's going to happen. I've got friends on the team. But it's different.
"He really meant a lot to me. He had a huge hand in me being a successful pitcher. I got to the big leagues with a certain talent and he really helped me become a winner. I thank him for that. I'll always remember that. But it's hard not to show him I made the All-Star Game and things like that."
During their next visit to Chicago, the Cardinals are considering staying at a different hotel than the Westin, where Kile's body was found. He died in his sleep, apparently from hardening of his arteries.
"I don't think guys want to go back to that scene," Morris said. "We had a couple meetings in those conference rooms. I don't think it would be a good spot for us to go back to."
He finds himself thinking about Kile, his wife Flynn and their three children.
"I feel for Flynn when she puts the kids to bed at 8 o'clock and it was their time to hang out and that's the hard part for her," Morris said. "I think about that and it gets me upset."
Kile's son Kannon threw out the first pitch on the Cardinals first game back at Busch Stadium on June 25, and then hung around the dugout with the players.
"It wasn't like on the first day we said 'We've got to rally,' " Morris said. "It took us awhile to get going. Everybody's pulling for each other.
"The day Kannon threw out the first pitch and stayed in the dugout was kind of relieving to see. He uplifted all of us. Of course, he was sad, but there were other times when he forgot about it. Guys would go strike out and he'd say, 'Hey, what happened?' It just eased the whole moment. That helped us out."
And so will time.
Carrie Muskat is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
07-08-02, 10:50 PM
ugh, this is just so tough :( Poor Matt and the rest of the Cardinals -- especially Veres... I didn't really know much about Kile until this year because I didn't follow the NL as much, but I did this year and know even more about him now -- I think this is going to take a long time to get over....there was an article like this about Veres and those guys were like best friends -- their children were born hours apart (or maybe a few days) and they spent all holidays and stuff together and they even built houses near each other...I can't even imagine how these guys feel...
I hope the Cardinals go all the way to the World Series now even more than ever...
07-08-02, 11:07 PM
I can only imagine how painful this has been for his family, friends and teammates. I have thought about Kile often since his death and it still seems so surreal that he is gone. They will all remain in my thoughts and prayers. :(
07-09-02, 09:24 AM
Biggio, Bagwell reflect on the loss of their close friend Kile
07/09 C. Finder / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
At 12:15 p.m. Sunday inside the visitors' clubhouse at PNC Park. Little more than an hour until game time. Craig Biggio was stretching his hamstrings and quads along the carpet, all the while teasing Houston Astros teammate Jeff Bagwell over All-Star home runs -- or, in Bagwell's case, his lack thereof. Bagwell teased back, something about Biggio's clout coming in the 1995 game off 79-year-old Dennis Martinez.
Suddenly, their focus was diverted by the clubhouse televisions.
Their attention was commanded by an ESPN story.
There was Darryl Kile's face in the Astros clubhouse.
Biggio stopped stretching.
Bagwell, inches behind him, leaned forward in his chair.
"Still have to see this," Bagwell muttered under his breath.
This wasn't another story about death, though. This wasn't another story about the tragic passing of a St. Louis pitcher, a man of 33 years, a husband and father of three. What it was: a tale about how the Cardinals coped with the loss of a teammate who died of a heart attack two weeks earlier, June 23.
And here, miles away on the North Shore, sat two guys who knew him better than most any other.
Biggio on the floor.
Bagwell in the chair.
When the three-minute TV story ended, Bagwell pursed his lips and Biggio spoke to his sons, Conor, 9, and Cavan, 7, who made this road trip with their dad.
Fathers. Sons. Friends. Reality seemed an odd place for baseball to intrude.
"We played together for seven years," Biggio began, "and we knew him for 12."
"It has nothing to do with the game. Baseball is what brought us together. That's the only connection between the two," Bagwell added. "He was just a friend. We're going to be friends whether we played baseball or not."
Bagwell occasionally slips into the present tense, like his friend is still around. "Yeah," he said uncomfortably moments before, running his left hand through the hair on the back of his head, "we're very close friends." The mourning continues. As it should for a guy who's the same age as Kile was, 33. A guy who first met him in the Instructional League in 1990 and commenced rooming with him the next spring, as Astros teammates and burgeoning stars -- first baseman and starting pitcher. Bagwell provided the beer and pizza, Kile brought the Gameboy. "That was him," he said, a slight smile creasing his lips and his eyes boring holes into the carpet.
They could have been plumbers together. They could have been auto mechanics or high school teachers or just about anything. Their line of work linked them. Then their personalities, hearts, minds bonded them forever.
Baseball was the plumbing-company van, the garage bay, the teacher's lounge that allowed them to spend nearly 250 days a year together. They became such close companions, they spoke regularly and had one another on their cell-phone speed dials.
"I'll never take that off my phone," he said. DK. Just like it says on Bagwell's Houston cap.
Next to the white 5 embossed on his black spikes, Bagwell painted a white 7. DK's number, 57. "That's just the baseball side where I commemorate him."
The day Kile died, Bagwell and Biggio, a second baseman, plus catcher Brad Ausmus -- a DK teammate for two Houston seasons -- all sat out the Astros' game that night. "I lost it," Bagwell said. "That was a very emotional day for me and a lot of people. Just ... very emotional." Manager Jimy Williams came to each and asked if they could contribute later in the game. All three eventually played. Bagwell ended the 12-inning affair against mighty Seattle with a pinch-batting, game-winning hit. It was a wonderful way to commemorate a strapping pitcher who never went on the disabled list, who never wanted to miss his turn in the rotation.
Bagwell's thoughts after that hit? DK. His family. His kids. He wipes mist from his left eye at the memory. "It was awful, actually." Imagine that: a game-winning hit, awful.
Their line of work is a small, strange fraternity. These three Astros were among dozens of former and current teammates who attended the funeral days later. Another player was asked by Cardinals pitcher Woody Williams to look after DK's widow, Flynn. It was only natural to them. Phil Nevin and Williams played together in San Diego. Nevin is the Padres leader who took over the clubhouse when outfielder Mike Darr was killed in a car crash early in spring training.
The day Kile died, Nevin went over to the family's home in San Diego to console Flynn. Soon after, he attended a fund-raiser in the memory of Mike Darr. One of the people in attendance there was Mike Darr Sr., who just so happened to coach Darryl Kile in high school at Corona, Calif. A small fraternity indeed.
"It's, you know, just unbelievable that it really happened," Biggio said of DK's death. "It's something to think he's not there anymore. It's ... it's ... still, you think about him."
With that, Biggio wanted to talk no more on the subject. The mourning continues, and it isn't easy at Biggio's 36 years, at any age.
During days of All-Star festivities and Ted Williams remembrances and discouraging talk of labor strife, sometimes we forget that baseball players are ordinary guys, too. Many of them have wives and sons and daughters like many of us. They bleed. They hurt.
"You ever lost a close friend?" Bagwell asked me.
Well, no, I replied. Not one as close as you did.
07-09-02, 12:00 PM
cd -- that bagwell article was tough to read...this is the veres one I was referring to -- very tough to read...from his remembering the last time he spoke to him with DK asking to borrow his hair gel, to their kids being born 9 hours apart, to them spending Thanksgiving and Christmas together -- those holidays are going to be very tough this year -- also, he sounds like he has a lot of regrets for things he didn't say or do and that's so tough to read -- i hope he cuts himself some slack because he sounds tortured. :(
Veres' pain runs deep
Kile was relievers' teammate, neighbor, best friend
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse was practically empty late Tuesday night when Dave Veres was slowly getting dressed to go home. Not to sleep -- Veres hasn't been getting much since his best friend Darryl Kile died suddenly Saturday at the tender age of 33.
"You know Darryl, he was always the first one to the park," Veres said. "I got (to Wrigley Field) around 9 (a.m.) and he wasn't there. I thought it was odd but I remembered (Kile's brother) Danny was in town and figured maybe they went to breakfast.
"I got dressed and went out on the field and came back in the clubhouse later at 11 o'clock and saw his (uniform) clothes were still in his locker. I asked Matt (Morris) and (Woody Williams) and Tino (Martinez) if they had seen him, they all said no. So I tried his cell phone and his room at about a quarter after 11 and there was no answer on either, so I called Robin (Veres, the pitcher's wife) and told her to go check his room. She did and there wasn't any answer and of course the maid wouldn't let her in. In hindsight I'm glad she didn't go in."
Team officials were notified and hotel security personnel entered the room and found Kile dead in his bed. At 12:30 Veres was informed there was a family emergency.
"Deep down I knew what it was," Veres said. "I was numb. Robin was screaming and bawling. The day was just a blur. You alternate between being numb and breaking down crying. Several times a day I still find myself thinking this can't have happened ..."
Veres voice trailed off. It had been an emotionally draining three days for the Cardinal pitcher. As he looked up at Kile's locker, right next to his, Veres continued to battle the grief over losing a dear friend.
"You always have regrets, I wish I would have told him how much he meant to me, how much he helped me in my career, but you think 'Aw, he knows that,' " Veres said. "But you know maybe he didn't. And I didn't tell him and I'll never have the chance now.
"I have trouble eating and sleeping ... and talking about him. I've known him for 14 years, (we were) teammates for eight of those years, neighbors for eight of those years. I've been living and working next to him almost every day for the last 15 years, almost half of my life. You take a lot for granted you know? Our first kids were nine hours apart so we always celebrate birthdays together. Christmas, Thanksgiving, we always spent them together. It's going to be impossible to have a normal life because he's been such a big part of it the last 15 years."
The two were teammates in Houston, then Colorado and finally St. Louis. Both were overachievers, Kile was drafted in the 30th round and Veres was a free agent signee. One was a 100-game winner and the other has recorded over 100 career saves. They were fast friends and they talked just about every day of the week.
Veres pointed to the chair in front of Kile's locker.
"Darryl would be over here talking and say things to me like 'Oh, I'm tired, I'm sick of this, sick of that, my arm aches,' the little things in baseball that you always talk about, so you think it's no big deal, like what pitcher doesn't have arm aches now and then?" Veres said. "You never put two and two together, and I hear in this type of situation you never know until it's too late. In retrospect there are signs, but like I said what pitcher doesn't have aching arm now and then or get tired and run down in day games?
"This is so tough to take because it is so unfair. They say he died of natural causes, to me when a 33-year-old dies it's hard to think of it as natural."
The Cardinals have not won since Kile's death. Veres knows they have to play the games, and that Kile would want them to play, but clearly things are different now and only time will bring this team back to any semblance of normalcy.
"Obviously we're not the same team the last two or three games," Veres said. "Darryl would want us out there, but it's hard. Tony (La Russa) read a quote of Darryl's earlier about when his father passed away, you try to go about your business and life goes on, and it does, but right now it's hard to think that it will. To me Darryl wasn't just my teammate."
"I'm so used to seeing him at this locker here, seeing his kid and my kids, and it's tough thinking about his kids with him gone."
The last conversation Veres had with Kile came following Friday's game at Wrigley Field.
"After the game Friday he asked to borrow my hair gel," Veres said. "I knew he was going to dinner that night with (his brother) Danny, and Robin and the baby was in town. He said something like "I'll pick you some up.' and that was the last conversation we had.
"Like I said there's always going to be regrets. I wish I could have told him more how much I appreciated him. He was a great player but he was an even greater person, he was a humble person who treated everybody with class whether they were an MVP or some rookie trying to make the team.
"You try to think of what possible good could come out of this and I'll I've come up with is at least he didn't suffer, at least it didn't happen when he was driving or with his kids or in a game. And at least now the world will know what those of us who knew Darryl Kile have known for years, and that's what a great guy he was."
07-09-02, 12:06 PM
I remember that one too. :( All of these articles are tough to read without getting a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.
06-16-03, 04:03 PM
Did anyone see the "Outside the Lines" yesterday morning? They had an update on Kile's wife and family -- their first Father's Day without him...the whole thing was heartbreaking but his son was almost unbearable to watch -- saying he speaks to his dad in his heart and he tells him he's the best and how he thinks he can hear him...ugh. :( so so so sad. :(
It's almost a year to the day since Kile died. I rememmber because we were at a friends daughter's bat mitzvah that weekend and we stayed over in Jersey and I saw it on the news. It was around June 21 or 22. Very sad- I'm sure they're all still feeling it.
06-16-03, 06:57 PM
Originally posted by b-ball-lunachick
Did anyone see the "Outside the Lines" yesterday morning? They had an update on Kile's wife and family -- their first Father's Day without him...the whole thing was heartbreaking but his son was almost unbearable to watch -- saying he speaks to his dad in his heart and he tells him he's the best and how he thinks he can hear him...ugh. :( so so so sad. :( I missed that. :( That little boy is wise beyond his years.
06-17-03, 09:05 AM
Ex-teammates make effort to keep late pitcher's memory alive
By Chuck Johnson, USA TODAY
RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. — As a baseball wife, Flynn Kile shared many special moments with her husband, Darryl. Now that he's gone, memories of him bring a smile and sometimes tears. He was the gawky but determined 19-year-old Norco High pitching alum whose knee-buckling curveball had major league written on it as clearly as the signature on the first pro baseball contract he'd just signed.
She was the petite but competitive 17-year-old senior sprinter and cross-country runner at rival Corona High who worked part-time as a waitress to earn money for college.
That's where Darryl Kile and Flynn Behrens began as a couple in Riverside, Calif., before the sprinter became the pitcher's biggest fan, before their three-year courtship led to 10 and a half years of marriage, before the family grew to include three children, before his 12th season in the majors ended when the 33-year-old St. Louis Cardinals right-hander and three-time National League All-Star was found dead in his Chicago hotel room. He suffered a massive heart attack in his sleep June 22.
"That's probably the hardest part, not really having any plans," says Flynn Kile, reminiscing in the family room of the couple's spacious dream home last week, just before Father's Day.
"Darryl and I had a lot of plans past baseball," she says. "We always talked about how once the kids were all grown up and out of the house, we were going to travel and get a smaller home by the beach and sleep in in the morning, and how great things were going to be as we got older. So now there's kind of no focus. Seeing my children happy. That's the only real plan I have now."
A devoted family man, Kile also was one of baseball's best pitchers and most well-liked and respected players. His reputation was that of a caring, fun-loving teammate and the consummate professional. He never missed a start while compiling a 133-119 record in 11-plus seasons with the Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies and St. Louis.
The Cardinals were waiting to play an afternoon contest June 22 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field when word of Kile's death sent shock waves through the game.
An autopsy revealed Kile died of a massive heart attack caused by an extreme blockage of the arteries feeding blood to the heart. Two of the three arteries were 90% blocked and the right artery had a blood clot, consistent with a sudden heart attack.
Kile's father was 44 when he died of a stroke, which is indicative of blockage in a brain artery. Kile had undergone shoulder surgery in November before his final season, but the pitcher's heart problems had gone undetected in the routine physical exam he took in spring training.
"The more I'm learning about it, I'm realizing that sometimes the first signs of heart problems is death," Flynn Kile says. "I wouldn't have thought that with someone Darryl's age, but I'm sure there's some genetic predisposition. So I'm concerned for my kids (son Kannon and daughter Sierra, 6-year-old twins; and son Ryker, 22 months). They need to be checked all the time."
Neither Kile's agent, Barry Axelrod, nor his widow ever considered holding the Cardinals responsible for the pitcher's death.
"I know Darryl, and in many ways he's not any different than any other big leaguer," Axelrod says. If he felt symptoms, "he'd just let testosterone take control and say, 'Hey, I'm a tough guy and I'm not going to complain.' That was sort of his mentality."
Kile had a guaranteed contract that pays close to $8 million this season. In addition, as a surviving spouse, Flynn Kile will collect a baseball pension of $160,000 a year for life, so the family's financial well-being is not an issue.
"On top of that, I don't think the Cardinals did anything wrong," Axelrod says. "They've been phenomenal through this."
A teammate's teammate
The St. Louis chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America has established a Darryl Kile Award, which they will present this season for the first time. The Houston chapter of the BBWAA also has a Darryl Kile Award, presented to Astros' first baseman Jeff Bagwell last January as the player who best reflects the character represented by the pitcher.
"There's not a day that goes by when I don't think about Darryl," says Bagwell, who wears Kile's number 57 on the back of his spikes in honor of his best friend. He also paid tribute in September, hosting 5,700 Houston area youths and their families for "DK57" day through the Jeff Bagwell Foundation.
Kile and Bagwell met as Instructional League roommates. "I was in the room with a six-pack of beer and a pizza, and he walked in playing GameBoy," Bagwell says. "I didn't know right then if we would hit it off. But we hit it off well."
Bagwell and Kile shared each other's joy when both made the Astros' roster in the spring of 1991.
"Even after we weren't teammates, we were together all the time playing golf and hanging out," Bagwell says. "He's one of the closest people I've ever had pass away. You lose a friend like that, it's a tough thing. I'll never get over it."
Astros center fielder Craig Biggio was Kile's first big-league catcher and still finds it tough to believe he's gone. "During the national anthem, I always say a prayer for the people close to me, and he's one guy I think about," Biggio says. "He wanted everybody to be successful. It didn't matter who you were."
Kile's seven seasons in Houston culminated in 1997, when he was 19-7 with a 2.57 ERA and finished fifth in the NL Cy Young Award voting. He spent the next two years with the Colorado Rockies, who signed the free agent to a three-year, $24 million contract. The high altitude of Coors Field adversely affected the break on Kile's curveball as he struggled to a 21-30 record.
"That was a difficult time," Flynn Kile says. "He felt they paid him a lot of money and he wasn't earning it. The thing that got him to the big leagues was that he cared so much."
After he was dealt to the Cardinals in November 1999, Kile was 20-9 and 16-11 in his first two seasons and was 5-4 with a 3.72 ERA when he died.
The cubicle next to right-hander Matt Morris's locker remains undisturbed in the St. Louis clubhouse. Kile's jersey hangs there. "We talk about him every day in the clubhouse," Morris says. "I talk about him at home. I still look for him to ask questions, and it's sad that I can't find him."
'I ache for them'
A supportive family helps ease some of Flynn Kile's anxieties as a single surviving parent. Both grandmothers help with the kids. Dan, the oldest of Darryl's two younger brothers, makes trips from Tucson, where he's a probation officer, to help any way he can. Last week, he attended a Father's Day program at Kannon's request, standing in for his brother as the main man in his nephew's life.
"Darryl was a good example for a lot of people because of how hard he worked to get where he got," Dan Kile says. "When he was in high school, he was one of the most awkward, dorkiest guys you've ever seen. But he loved baseball and he stuck to it."
Flynn Kile's biggest concern is with how the kids are adapting.
"I ache for them. I don't ache for me anymore," she says. "My daughter doesn't say much. I think it's probably harder on Kannon because he was always at the ballpark with him. Darryl made an extra effort with Kannon because he seems a little more sensitive. Darryl could be emotional, and Kannon's like him."
The twins will enter first grade next fall. Kannon plays tee ball, and Sierra takes dance. As for Ryker, just 10 months when his dad passed away, "He has no clue," Flynn Kile says. "That's probably good and bad in some respect, but it's good because it's not another one I have to worry about being emotionally scarred. Someday, I'll describe his father to him as best as I can."
The Cardinals have put together a memory book, with photos and letters from players, fans, owners and others asked to provide their recollections of Kile. The Cardinals plan to present copies to Flynn Kile, the kids and Kile's mom when the team plays in San Diego after the All-Star break.
One last night together
On that fateful weekend last year, Flynn was supposed to go with her husband to Chicago, but both decided it was best for her to stay back. She wanted to put the final touches on their San Diego-area home, including finding just the right spot for the five-panel artwork she had painted of Kile's vaunted curveball, a 10th anniversary present. Kile was looking forward to an extended stay at home during the All-Star break. "They were playing the Padres afterward, so we were going to have one big week," she says.
That week turned to grief, leaving Flynn Kile to cherish the only night spent with Darryl in their new home.
"In May, he had a day off, caught a private flight and got here at 10 o'clock at night," she says. "I tried to make things as nice as I could. I turned on the Jacuzzi so we could relax and have a glass of wine. The next morning we had breakfast with his agent. It was the only night we spent here together here."
Axelrod recalls the visit because of Kile's joy with where he was in his life. "The last thing I remember him talking about, and it goes back to that self-effacing, he said 'Look at me. I'm just some dopey kid that somehow figured out how to throw a curveball. I've got the perfect wife. I've got the perfect family. Now I'm going to have a terrific house.' That was the last in-person conversation we had."
The love Kile felt for his family was reaffirmed in his final days.
"He gave me a heart-shaped diamond ring and asked me to remarry him a week before he died," Flynn Kile says. "I really don't know what brought that on, but he seemed to be getting real homesick last season. He felt like he was missing out on what the kids and I were doing. He felt like he needed to be there for me, which I didn't understand because we were doing fine. But he talked about retirement all the time."
Still adjusting to loss
It has been an adjustment for Flynn Kile and her husband's teammates to stay in touch as they once did.
"I don't like to be a reminder," she says. "Like with Jeff (Bagwell), I didn't realize it was hard on him having to see me. I don't want to be that for the guys. It's hard enough to move on."
"Sometimes I feel like if I call too much, I'm almost a reminder of it," Bagwell says. "I know she has to get on with her life, her and the kids. But at some point I want to be able to sit down with her kids and tell them what I know about their father. I want to make sure they know the legacy he left as a person."
As she copes, Flynn Kile isn't sure what the future holds. She only knows for her and the children, life isn't the same without Darryl.
"Maybe when we get past all this year-marking stuff, everybody will kind of let it go and that will make it easier," she says. " But I'm not sure what will make it normal again. I'm still searching for something to make it right."
06-17-03, 10:10 AM
I didn't see that episode of Outside The Lines and it must have been very sad. My thoughts and prayers are with the Kile family.
06-18-03, 01:41 AM
That was really hard to read.
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