ST. LOUIS — Josh Hancock, a key member of the bullpen that helped the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series last season, was killed in a car crash early Sunday.
The Cardinals postponed their home game Sunday night against the Chicago Cubs. It was the second time in less than five years that a St. Louis pitcher died during the season. Darryl Kile was found dead in his hotel room in 2002.
Police said the 29-year-old Hancock was alone in his 2007 Ford Explorer when he struck the rear of a tow truck at 12:35 a.m. The truck was in the left lane assisting another vehicle that was involved in a prior accident, officer Pete Mutter said.
Hancock was pronounced dead at the scene. 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. The medical examiner’s office said Sunday morning that an autopsy had been scheduled.
“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.”
Hancock was remembered at ballparks around the country. The Cleveland Indians observed a moment of silence before their game against the Baltimore Orioles, with Hancock’s picture displayed on a giant scoreboard.
“It’s terrible, another terrible event,” said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, who was the Colorado hitting coach when Kile was a part of the Rockies’ staff in 1998 and 1999. “The young man had done so well last fall and had a promising career. It’s just terrible.”
A Cardinals-Cubs game also was postponed in June 2002 after Kile died in Chicago. The 33-year-old pitcher died of a coronary artery blockage.
Hancock, who pitched three innings of relief in Saturday’s 8-1 loss to the Cubs, played for four major league clubs. He went 3-3 with a 4.09 ERA in 62 regular-season appearances for the Cardinals last season and pitched in three postseason games. He was 0-1 with a 3.55 ERA in eight games this season.
Three days before his death, the Cardinals got a scare that some teammates said reminded them of Kile’s death — Hancock overslept and showed up late for a day game in St. Louis. Hancock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he thought the starting time was later and didn’t get up until the “20th call” from anxious teammates.
“We were all a little nervous,” closer Jason Isringhausen said earlier this week. “We don’t care if you’re late. That happens. We want to know that you’re OK.”
Hancock made his offseason home in St. Louis. He was the only player to attend the premiere of a DVD documenting the Cardinals’ unlikely run to their 10th World Series championship after winning only 83 regular-season games.
Hancock, who was single, joined the Cardinals in spring training last season after the Cincinnati Reds released him for violating a weight clause in his contract. He had been a starter the previous year with Cincinnati, but missed 133 games because of groin and elbow injuries. He also pitched for Boston and Philadelphia.
In 1997, Hancock helped Auburn advance to the College World Series.
“Josh was a part of arguably the best pitching staff and arguably the best team ever to play at Auburn. It is a shame whenever anyone dies, especially someone as young as Josh, in a tragic accident,” said Auburn coach Tom Slater, an assistant at the school when Hancock played there.
Associated Press Writer Betsy Taylor contributed to this report.