- The Washington Times - Monday, June 24, 2002

CHICAGO Jim Edmonds leaned against a wall for support, his eyes red and watery, Darryl Kile's No.57 written on both his cap and the thick tape covering his right wrist.
As he listened to St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and teammate Woody Williams talk about Kile, he looked upward with a vacant stare, as if he still couldn't believe the pitcher was dead at just 33.
"There isn't anything you go through that gets you ready for what happened here yesterday," La Russa said yesterday before the Cardinals lost to the Chicago Cubs 8-3. "And I hope nobody for years and years and years in any sport has to go through it.
"You go through it in private life, and it's really difficult," added La Russa, who lost his father two months ago. "But when you do it like we do it, one of the guys, it's a different burden."
But one the Cardinals have no choice but to carry.
Kile was found dead in his hotel room bed Saturday afternoon after teammates became concerned when he didn't show up to Wrigley Field. An autopsy done yesterday showed he likely died from a blocked coronary artery, said Dr. Edmund Donoghue, the Cook County medical examiner.
Kile had "80-to-90 percent" narrowing of two of the three branches of the coronary artery, Donoghue said.
For the Cardinals, the best way to move on was to play last night's game a game Kile was supposed to start.
Though there was some talk of postponing the game out of respect for Kile, the Cardinals voted unanimously to play in his honor. His wife, Flynn, agreed when she met with the Cardinals after a 30-minute memorial service at the team hotel yesterday morning.
A fierce competitor, Kile spent almost 12 years in the majors without going on the disabled list.
"Basically she said she thought that Darryl would want them to play, also. And that certainly helped reinforce what their decision was," said Walt Jocketty, the Cardinals general manager.
"I think hopefully our guys will rally the way Darryl would want them to and make the most of it," he added. "But it will be difficult."
Donoghue said a final autopsy report could take from 4-to-6 weeks because he still wants to study toxicology reports. He gave no indication yesterday that drugs or illegal substances were involved in Kile's death.
"The complete results are pending," Donoghue said.
The condition, called coronary atherosclerosis, is commonly known as hardening of the arteries.
Kile's father died shortly after a heart attack in his mid-40s in 1993.
Dr. Jim Loomis, the Cardinals' assistant team physician, said Saturday that the 6-foot-5 pitcher had no known health problems and was not on medication.
No one would have mistaken this for a regular game in the middle of June.
There was a moment of silence before the game, and all of the Cubs and Cardinals stood in front of their dugouts, heads bowed.
The Cardinals wore small, black patches with "57" on their left sleeves, and two of Kile's jerseys hung on either side of the dugout door leading into the clubhouse.
The U.S. flag at Wrigley Field was at half-staff, and the colorful pennants of the NL teams that usually fly above the scoreboard were taken down.
Flags on the left- and right-field foul poles that usually carry the names of Billy Williams and Ernie Banks were taken down and replaced with flags of each team. Those, too, hung at half-staff.
Kile's name and No.57 were on the marquee outside Wrigley Field for the entire day, and the only thing on the park's electronic message board was a bright yellow "57."
There was no music at the park except for the national anthem. Even the traditional singing of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" was canceled, replaced by a mournful organ version of the song.
"All the support and all the love that we've seen from the Cubs organization as well as baseball has been overwhelming," Woody Williams said, his eyes watering.
"It's such a great loss losing a man and a husband and a father like we did. Darryl was something very special, someone who will be truly missed and not forgotten about."
When Fernando Vina led off the game with a single, he pointed skyward as he returned to the bag. Cubs catcher Joe Girardi patted Edmonds' shoulder when he came up to bat.
And instead of Sammy Sosa's trademark sprint to right field at the start of the game, he jogged slowly to the outfield. He gave fans a subdued chest thump.
"It's something nobody thought could happen, especially a healthy guy, a great person. He was a warrior," Sosa said before the game. "I had some trouble going to sleep last night, thinking about that."
Even fans put aside the strong emotions that usually accompany a Cardinals-Cubs game. Many in the crowd were dressed in Cardinal red, and when the pitchers went out to stretch before the game, fans standing along the right-field line gave them a standing ovation.
The entire Cardinals team, still mourning the loss of longtime announcer Jack Buck last Tuesday, got a standing ovation as they left the field after batting practice.
"The word 'fraternity' has been brought up a lot to us in the last couple of days. It's something very special," Edmonds said. "I know my team would just like to thank everybody that's in it for understanding what we're going through and understanding what the family is going through."
Few people can truly understand, though. Cubs manager Don Baylor was with the California Angels in 1978 when Lyman Bostock was killed in a drive-by shooting in Gary, Ind. The Angels played a game the next day.
"It was the toughest thing I ever had to do," Baylor said, shaking his head at the memory. "My heart goes out to the guys on the other side."
The Cardinals were given their space before the game. Their clubhouse was closed to the media, and red ropes were put up to keep anyone from going to their side of the field during batting practice.
But there are no barriers that will stop their thoughts of Kile and quiet the questions in their minds.
"We're going to try and play this game today and do the best we can," La Russa said, struggling to keep his voice even. "When it's over, we'll deal with the rest of it.
"I just don't think we can get too far ahead of ourselves. This will demand all of our attention."


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