I'll never forget the day Redbird Nation lost number 57.
I was shooting hoops in my backyard, waiting for the Cardinals game to start. The date was June 22, 2002. The Cardinals were slated to play Chicago at Wrigley Field, so naturally I was anxiously awaiting the game.
While shooting, a neighbor walked up my driveway. The following words are burned into my brain. "Did you hear? Darryl Kile died."
The next hour or so is a blur to me. I walked inside with my neighbor, and we told my dad. Everybody sat in front of the TV as Joe Girardi tearfully announced the news to a packed Wrigley Field.
Darryl Kile was one of the most popular players on that Cardinal team. He was loved by every member of the club. He was a mentor to Matt Morris, then a talented young pitcher. Some think Morris never recovered from Kile's sudden passing.
The rest is history. Kile died from a coronary disease, but the Tony La Russa-led Cardinals ended up roaring back from a difficult start to the year, coincidentally winning 57 more games in the regular season. They finished 95-67 before losing in the NLCS.
Kile is certainly not a Hall of Famer, but he had a good career that was cut short. Known for his filthy curveball and gritty demeanor, he threw a no-hitter, made an All-Star team, and pitched in the playoffs.
The dog days of summer are absolutely some of the most exciting and fun of the year for me. I love St. Louis baseball and the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry. But these days also bring back memories of a fallen Cardinal.
I wanted to take a minute to remember DK 57, a few days after the six-year anniversary of his death. Much has changed.
Morris is out of baseball. Fellow starter on the 2002 team, Rick Ankiel, is now the starting CF for the Cardinals. And a second-year player on that '02 squad, some Albert Pujols guy, is the best player in baseball.
But one thing is the same.
Baseball is still just a game.