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Today in Cubs history: A Cubs game was canceled due to the death of a Cardinals player

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an updated version of an article that appeared here two years ago.


I will never forget the afternoon of Saturday June 22, 2002 at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs, bogged down in fifth place, were scheduled to face the Cardinals in a Saturday afternoon matchup that was to be televised as Fox-TV’s Saturday Game of the Week matchup. The Cardinals led the NL Central going into that day’s action, even though the Cubs had won the series opener the previous day 2-1. (Side note: The June 21, 2002 game is the last time a game at Wrigley Field was completed in less than two hours.)

The scheduled game time for that afternoon was 12:20 p.m.

Midday passed and there were no players on the field to begin warm-ups. This seemed strange. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, there were no weather issues that could have delayed that.

A murmur began to run through the crowd in the stands that “something” had happened between one of the ball clubs. Now, you have to remember this: 2002 was before smartphones and before social media. Back then, some still didn’t have cell phones, but for those who did, the only way to find out anything was to make an old-fashioned phone call. But even that didn’t provide much information; no one had said anything on the broadcast or anywhere else.

A few minutes after the scheduled game time (as I recall, it was around 12:25), team personnel set up a microphone in front of the Cubs dugout and Joe Girardi, in his second stint with the team, stood behind him, surrounded. by his companions.

What Joe said, I will remember forever:

Applause can be heard at the end of Girardi’s remarks, during which he nearly burst into tears. It was a sensitive, respectful moment. After that, the players left the field and those of us in the stands looked at each other, not knowing what to do for a moment, then we realized that we all had to go home.

Later that day, it was revealed that Cardinals right-hander Darryl Kile had passed away from a heart attack in his downtown Chicago hotel room, aged just 33.

The teams played the following night, a bit half-heartedly, it was ESPN’s Sunday night highlight game. The Cubs turned off the public address system that night, the announcements and music were not played, and the message board under the center field scoreboard simply displayed “DK 57” throughout the game. The Cubs won that game 8-3, not that it really mattered, and the postponed June 22 game was picked up as part of the first day/night doubleheader at Wrigley Field on Aug. 31.

Two years ago on this date, the St. Louis Post Shipment republished a column by Bernie Miklasz written at the time that captured the raw emotions of that June afternoon 20 years ago. It’s worth a full read, but this one in particular grabbed me:

Our hearts pound and sink thinking about how it ended for DK. If a man is going to die at 33, he at least should be surrounded by the warmth of family and the glow of his loved ones, who could hug, kiss and comfort him. And he should have a chance to reflect on his life and his works, and he should be able to say goodbye to his wife and children, and perhaps impart some final advice that might help them get their children through the life. He must be told that he is loved. He shouldn’t die far from home, in a sterile hotel room, surrounded by stock furniture and generic paintings. In the final moments, did Kile know? Was he able to think of his wife and his three young children and smile just before fear took hold of him? It is too unbearable to contemplate.

It was a sad day, 20 years ago today at Wrigley Field, Saturday June 22, 2002. Darryl Kile never pitched for the Cubs, only against them, so we don’t get to know him the way fans of all three teams do. he played for the Astros, Rockies and Cardinals, he did.

But I think it’s worth remembering, as are Joe Girardi’s sensitive words, showing even as a player the leadership skills that eventually made him a successful major league manager.

Rest in peace, Darryl Kile.

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