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Review: 'The Life and Death of Darryl Kile'

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer
It was just over 10 years ago that Cardinals right-hander Darryl Kile died at the age of 33. (Getty Images)

As someone who grew up a Cardinals fan, I vividly remember the day Darryl Kile died. I was watching the WGN broadcast from Wrigley Field as then Cub catcher Joe Girardi, choking back tears, cryptically announced to the crowd that the game that day was being canceled because of "a tragedy within the Cardinal family." That tragedy was Kile's death at the age of 33, but Girardi couldn't say so because, at that moment, not even Kile's own wife knew what had happened.

It was 10 years ago this past June 22 that Kile died from a massive heart attack in his Chicago hotel room. Tied to that grim anniversary is the MLB Network's hour-long documentary "The Life and Death of Darryl Kile," which premieres Thursday night at 9:00 pm ET.

The documentary is narrated by the always capable and note-perfect Bob Costas. As good as Costas is at capturing moments like these, the story is largely told by those who knew Kile best -- friends like Tony La Russa, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Matheny, Craig Biggio, Walt Jocketty, Brad Ausmus, Phil Nevin, Larry Walker, and Dave Veres. This is one of the production's many strengths.

When I think of Kile, I of course first think of his passing too soon, and then I think of what was one of the best hard, 12-6 curves I've ever seen. And then I think of his reputation as a peerless teammate, husband and father. Fittingly, "Life and Death" does a fine job of showing how much Kile meant to those who knew him. Ten years later, tough sorts like Bagwell, Biggio and Veres still have trouble composing themselves when talking about their friend.

Bagwell, who was one of the first outside the Cardinal clubhouse to learn of Kile's death, remembers getting the news via a phone call from Moises Alou. "Don't tell me that," he said to Alou. Bagwell's words still sound painful to him. Veres was privy to some of the rawest moments. It was his wife who first broke the news to Kile's wife, Flynn, moments after Girardi had told the crowd at Wrigley as much as he could. And it was Veres who escorted Flynn to identify her husband's body, and it was Veres who heard her scream in the next room when she saw him.

La Russa, though, began the journey toward closure when he shared with his battered team Kile's own thoughts following the premature death of his father. "I've got work to do," Kile said resolutely at the time. Even in death, Kile's words helped the Cardinals soldier on and win their division in 2002.

At the end, one is left remembering Kile as he would surely have it: as a man who was relentlessly loyal to friends and teammates, and most of all to his family. The grim particulars move the story forward, but it's the simple decency of Kile that makes "The Life and Death of Darryl Kile" more than worth your time.

("The Life and Death of Darryl Kile" will also be re-broadcast on the MLB Network on Friday at 1 pm ET and again this Saturday, July 14 at 5 pm ET.)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.

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