Death and Baseball: Buck, Kile, Hancock, Taveras and Ventura

Baseball Deaths
Death is not an easy subject, though it dominates our lives. This week, it came up in another unexpected place: baseball.

 

As a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals growing up, the history of the game surrounded me. You couldn’t be a fan of the Cardinals without knowing the voice of Jack Buck. He was a larger-then-life individual that painted pictures in your mind with words as his paint brush. We were a fortunate fan base.

 

The day he died is etched forever in my brain. It will never leave. However, Jack had led a full life. Very seldom was he in the public eye anymore. He was a Hall of Fame broadcaster, had a lengthy career and led a long life. He was almost 78 years old when he left us.

 

Four short days later, tragedy struck the Cardinals again. This time, suddenly and unexpectedly, an active member of the Cardinals’ roster died. Darryl Kile, at the age of 33, was found dead in his hotel room. The baseball world, the Cardinals family and the players that shared his clubhouse were impacted. The unthinkable had happened.

 

It was five years later that the Cardinals would lose Josh Hancock. An incredibly young 29 year old pitcher, Hancock took his life and other’s in his own hands when he got behind the wheel of a vehicle while intoxicated.

 

Buck, Hancock and Kile had left a fan base with memories. Memories of exact moments in games, precise words that would live forever and friendships that would last a lifetime. Their impact on the game, the team and the fans would live on through those memories.

 

Fast forward a bit to October of 2014. The Kansas City Royals are in the World Series and many St. Louis fans find themselves cheering for a team from the opposite side of the state. Suddenly, death interjected into the discussion again as news spread of the death of Oscar Taveras. A Dominican born player that had only recently reached the Major League level, Taveras was gone at the age of 22.

 

Unlike Buck, Hancock or Kile, Taveras left a void in fans memories. Sure, there were a few moments to cling to but the real void was in the thought of the memories not yet created. Taveras was widely recognized as one of the top prospects in all of baseball. The future for him was bright. The snuffing out of that light was crushing.

 

Somewhere between Kile’s legacy and Taveras’ promise is Yordano Ventura. A Royals pitcher affectionately known to his teammates as “Ace”. He was a budding star, showing signs of brilliance on multiple occasions in his young career. He was a close friend to Taveras, pitching in the World Series game the night after Taveras had died, honoring his young friend with an inscription on his hat and his actions on the field.

 

Yet, here is a fan base thrust into the harsh reality that these athletes, though sometimes portrayed as people far above the normal human condition, were in fact just that – human. Death is the one condition we will all succumb to at some point. It doesn’t matter if you’re a broadcaster, a bartender, a professional athlete or a waiter, time moves forward.

 

As a fan of both teams, my heart breaks writing this. I’m sad that I won’t see Ace live up to his nickname and dominate with his fastball. I’m even sad I won’t get to see him throw at another batter, enticing a bench clearing brawl like only a little brother seemingly could. It’s sad to remember the lives of others we have lost.

 

RIP, Ace. You left much more of an impact on the world then most 25 year old’s could even imagine.

 

~Bill Ivie
Founder | I-70 Baseball





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