The date was June 22nd, 2002.
While fans were waiting for the Cardinals-Cubs game at Wrigley Field to get underway, Cubs catcher Joe Girardi went onto the field and spoke to the crowd, visibly emotional…
“Excuse me. I thank you for your patience. We regret to inform you because of a tragedy in the Cardinal family, that the commissioner has cancelled the game today. Please be respectful. You will find out eventually what has happened, and I ask that you say a prayer for the Cardinals’ family.”
As it turned out, earlier that morning, Cardinals’ starting pitcher Darryl Kile had died in his hotel room. He was only 33 years old. It was later discovered he had died of coronary artery disease. It was the second tragic passing in the Cardinals organization in a week’s timespan (Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck died earlier in the week at the age of 77).
Since his passing, the Cardinals had not re-issued his No. 57 jersey, although it was never been formally retired by the organization.
That is, until Thursday when the Cardinals announced Kile’s number would be re-issued to 23-year old prospect Zack Thompson.
“The significance of what Darryl Kile means to this organization is still very real,” said John Mozeliak, Cardinals president of baseball operations. “To me, it’s almost full circle. I think it’s nice that it doesn’t lay in this awkward spot of not used, not retired, and when people get to wear that now they’ll get to reflect on the legacy of Darryl Kile, who he was. I actually think this is a special moment, and that it’s going to be a perpetual moment.”
Thompson, who was only four years old when Kile passed away, had to use Google to learn more about what the No. 57 meant to the Cardinals and said he’s up to the task to wear it.
“If they want me to represent that number,” Thompson said, “I’ll respect it and try.”
Thompson was the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick (No. 19 overall) in 2019. While he’ll most likely start in the minor leagues, when he gets that call-up to the majors, Thompson’s No. 57 will be waiting in the locker room.
(Photo Credit: Mark Walsh)