The St. Louis Cardinals are mourning the death of a teammate for the second time in five years, and it isn't any easier this time.
Just hours before the St. Louis Cardinals were set to take on the Chicago Cubs, the Cardinals received tragic news, their pitcher, Josh Hancock was involved in a auto accident earlier that morning and sadly, didn't survive.
Josh Hancock, a 29-year old relief pitcher, died when his SUV slammed into the back of a tow truck early Sunday morning, this brought up painful memories of Darryl Kyle's death in June of 2002. Hancock was a big part of the bullpen that helped the Cardinals win the World Series last season.
"There's a big hole that's going to be there," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "This is brutal to go through." Tony La Russa had the unfortunate duty to inform Hancock's family, that resides in Mississippi of their son's horrible accident.The Cards postponed the Sunday night game against the Cubs, and it was the right decision, the players shouldn't be think of baseball at this time. This is a very tough time to go through, and it seems like nothing but tragedy can hit this country at this time, with the massacre at Virginia Tech, the death of Hancock, the shootings at a mall in Kansas City, MO today that killed 2 innocent people and so much more. I extend my deepest sympathy to the Hancock family and the Cardinal organization.
"What words can you give somebody in a situation like this?" Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.
St. Louis police said that Hancock was alone in his 2007 Ford Explore when the SUV struck the rear of a flatbed tow truck at 12:35 a.m. The tow truck was in the left lane with it's lights flashing while assisting another car that had crashed, Police Chief Joe Mokwa said.
Hancock died upon impact, Mokwa said. The driver of the tow truck, whose name was not released by police, was in the truck at the time of the crash but was not injured. Mokwa said the truck driver saw Hancock's SUV swerve just before it hit the tow truck.
Mokwa said it appeared Hancock was driving at or just above the speed limit, and there were no alcohol containers in his vehicle.
"We may never know what occurred," Mokwa said. "It appears that he just merely didn't see the tow truck."
"All of baseball today mourns the tragic and untimely death of St. Louis pitcher Josh Hancock," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. "He was a fine young pitcher who played an important role on last year's World Series championship team."
The Cardinals will wear patches with Hancock's No. 32 on their sleeves for the rest of the season. The team also planned a memorial for the bullpen, which already features a tribute to Kile, found dead in his hotel room in Chicago. The 33-year-old pitcher died of a coronary artery blockage.
General manager Walt Jocketty said the Cardinals, who are off Thursday, plan to charter a plane to the funeral. The team begins a three-game series in Milwaukee on Monday and returns to St. Louis on Friday.
"Obviously, this is very difficult for all of us, especially those of us who were here five years ago when we lost Darryl Kile," said Jocketty, his eyes red. "There's no way we could have played tonight's game.""This has obviously been a very difficult time," St. Louis pitcher Branden Looper said. "Josh was a great teammate and a great friend to everybody, and he was a key part of our success." Atlanta Braves ace Tim Hudson played with Hancock at Auburn. They helped lead the school to the 1997 College World Series.
"It feels like being punched in the stomach right now," Hudson said. "Josh was such a good person. I saw him a few times a year going back to Auburn for football games. It's really a shock."