Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Darryl Kile Tragedy

This story is much too serious and somber to carry the label of "Incident".  "Tragedy" is very fitting indeed.

On June 22, 2002, St Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile was found dead in his hotel room in Chicago, where the Cardinals were due to play the Cubs in a Saturday afternoon game.

Pre-game preparations were already underway when Kile was found, and Cub catcher and captain Joe Girardi made a very classy yet very emotional announcement to the crowd assembled at Wrigley Field that the day's game had been cancelled. He didn't explain why at the time, saying only that the Cardinal family had been struck by a tragedy. News that Kile had passed away came out shortly thereafter.

Of course when something like this happens, baseball - whether fantasy or the real thing - takes a back seat, and rightly so. However the fact remains that Kile’s death did have an effect on fantasy leagues, as petty and insignificant as that effect was compared to those personally impacted by the loss of Kile.

I think it’s safe to say that the CFCL’s experience with Kile’s passing was unique among all fantasy leagues. While teams in thousands and thousands of fantasy leagues I’d wager that very few of those fantasy league teams had traded for Kile less than 24 hours before his death. What, maybe 10 or so?

And of those 10 fantasy leagues in which Kile had been traded the day before he died, how many were in the process of being filmed for a documentary?

I’d guess only the CFCL.

I don’t say that to brag or puff up the significance of our little league, but just out of sheer wonder … I mean, what are the chances that a team in the one fantasy baseball league being followed by a documentary crew would acquire Darryl Kile the day before his passing? They’ve got to be miniscule.

On June 22, 2002, the Six Packs traded Bobby Abreu, Edgar Renteria, Darryl Kile, and their 12th round Rotation Draft pick in 2003 to Eric’s Lambchops for Terry Adams, Carlos Hernandez, Roosevelt Brown, and Aaron Heilman. The Lambchops were gunning for their first CFCL Championship, and felt this deal could set the up nicely for a pennant run.

While the filmmakers didn’t capture the trade being made, they happened to be filming Six Pack’s owner Kelly Barone at a birthday party the day Kile died, but he hadn’t heard the news yet. Here’s how the Kile tragedy was portrayed in Trading the Gator:

When the film was finally released, the Lambchops’ owner Eric Lamb took some flak for what appeared to be an insensitive reaction to Kile’s death – for thinking more about its impact on his fantasy team than for mourning the loss of a human life.

I got to know Eric fairly well over the years, both as a fellow owner and as a friend outside of the league, and I’d be hard-pressed to name a more caring and compassionate person. I have a feeling that editing had a good deal to do with how things appeared (not that it was intentionally cut that way by the filmmakers). I have no doubt that the human side of this hit Eric very hard indeed, regardless of the impact to his team, and it’s not as if he immediately started drafting trade proposals upon hearing the news. It was a number of weeks before they made their next deal. 

That said, fantasy owners are conditioned to evaluate all news in terms of the impact to their team and league. Eric’s trading partner, Kelly, was very honest about his reaction in a post to the league message board:


Posted by Kelly on 6/22/2002, 3:28 pm
A few things on a very tragic subject...

-- I had absolutely no idea Daryl Kile was going to die
-- I hope this isn't a hex on Eric
-- This instantly becomes a classic bit of roto lore that you couldn't possibly dream up for a documentary
-- It’s sad and its selfish, but one of the first thoughts that went through my head was "Good thing I traded him when I did". And anyone in a roto league who says they wouldn't think something like that is just lying.

Other owners agreed:

Posted by Matt on 6/23/2002, 7:58 am
I'm with Kelly, one of my first thoughts was thankfulness that I didn't have him on any of my teams. What God awful timing on Eric's part to deal for him (I said wow about another dozen times this morning).

Well, my condolences to Daryl's family and friends and his current and former teammates throughout the league. I'm sure they'll all miss him, especially his kids. What a horrible week for the Cardinal nation.

Posted by Paul on 6/23/2002, 8:09 am
Unfortunately, Kelly is correct in his above assumptions. Obviously, the first three (and most importantly, the first two) go w/o saying, and the last item is one that is tragically true to at least one small degree, at least for yours truly.

I had a chance to talk to Eric yesterday and the whole conversation was just strange and surreal. In the big scheme of things, it doesn't (and shouldn't) really matter to Eric, but, as Kelly alluded to above to some degree, he was shaken (as I interpreted it) by this whole thing. I really wish it was something we could laugh about, like Kile was just out for the year after falling victim to having a tarp come up to Busch Stadium and rolling over his leg. This was something, however, that you just couldn't make fun of or joke about.


A few days after Kile’s death, I paid tribute to him in the weekly Roster Change report by listing the stats he had accumulated with each of the CFCL teams he had played for, and recapping his entire CFCL career. You can read the tribute in the report linked below:

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