Baseball says goodbye to Kile in memorial service

Wednesday, June 26th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ From a podium on the Busch Stadium pitcher's mound where Darryl Kile made his living, former teammates paid their respects.

Players who have been mourning Kile in ballparks across the country got a chance to say goodbye together in a memorial service attended by about 5,000 fans on Wednesday.

Dozens of players were at the service, and among the speakers were retired pitcher Doug Drabek, Rockies pitcher Pete Harnisch and Cardinals teammates Dave Veres and Woody Williams.

Harnisch said he had known Kile since 1991.

``I had a teammate and a golf partner and a very special friend, a roommate, and finally, a brother,'' he said. ``That was a natural progression for Darryl, teammate to brother.

``It seems as if he's bringing us closer again.''

Drabek, who like Harnisch pitched with Kile on the Astros in the 1990s, also spoke of Kile's clubhouse leadership.

``I was an only child, so growing up I figured I'd never have a brother and sister,'' Drabek said. ``How so wrong I was.''

Many players took red-eye flights for the service and planned to catch return flights in time for their games. Several sat with family under tents in the infield, with dozens more lining the first row of the box seats.

The Cardinals were home against Milwaukee on Wednesday night.

Unlike a memorial service for longtime Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck at the stadium last Thursday, there was no casket on the field for the tribute to Kile.

Veres, who was with Kile on the Astros, Rockies and Cardinals, read from scripture. Williams read the closing prayer.

Pitcher Kent Bottenfield, a former teammate recovering from rotator cuff surgery last year, was at Busch Stadium on Tuesday after driving with his family from Indianapolis.

Bottenfield had grown close to Kile from several early-morning rounds of golf during spring training in 2000,

I remember telling my wife, 'This is a guy I'm going to enjoy playing with,''' said Bottenfield, who was traded for Jim Edmonds late in spring training that year. ``You're going to hear a lot of good things about him, and it's all true.''

Players from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers, in town for a three-game series, also participated in the service for the 33-year-old pitcher, who died Saturday in a Chicago hotel room.

``We're all going to remember DK,'' Cardinals reliever Mike Timlin said. ``He's in our hearts. It's like losing a brother.''

Milwaukee's Jamey Wright pitches Wednesday night and was a close friend of Kile's.

``My starting pitcher has to go through it,'' manager Jerry Royster said.

Several hundred fans, many wearing Cardinal red and carrying sings and banners, were waiting when the gates opened about a half-hour before the service began.

``I just wanted to be here,'' said Patti Sticken of St. Louis. ``He was one of the best pitchers we had in a long time and he really will be missed.''

On Tuesday night, fans observed 57 seconds of silence, marking Kile's uniform number, in a ceremony before the Cardinals' first home game since their pitcher's death. Several teammates wept during a video tribute.

``The St. Louis Cardinals family sustained an unbearable loss,'' board chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. ``He was a great teammate and leader and a wonderful family man.''

Teammates hung two of Kile's jerseys from his locker stall. Kile's batting helmet, several warmup jerseys and even mail remained in the stall. A plaque given in his memory by the St. Louis chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America lay on his chair.

During the game, Kile's jersey hung in the dugout tunnel leading to the clubhouse.

Team personnel will wear a small black, circular patch with Kile's initials and his uniform number, ``DK57,'' on their left sleeve the rest of the season. They were already wearing a patch to commemorate the death of longtime broadcaster Jack Buck, who died last Tuesday, on their right sleeve.

Larger versions of the patches were placed on the right-field wall and behind home plate.

The makeshift memorial to Kile outside the stadium rivaled the one for Buck last week. Homemade tributes piled up, with one reading: ``Darryl Kile _ 10th player on the field. He will follow the Cardinals to win the World Series in 2002.''

The team said it would not fill Kile's roster spot until after the memorial service. On Tuesday, the Cardinals promoted right-hander Jimmy Journell, one of the potential candidates, from Double-A New Haven to Triple-A Memphis.

The more likely candidate was right-hander Travis Smith, who was with the Cardinals earlier this year during a rash of injuries to the rotation.

``We haven't made a decision yet and there's no need to add anybody at this time,'' general manager Walt Jocketty said. ``We're not going to rush into making a decision.''