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Published:April 29th, 2007 15:46 EST
Cardinals Relief Pitcher Killed in Car Accident

Cardinals Relief Pitcher Killed in Car Accident

By Peter Giordano

ST. LOUIS- Josh Hancock, a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen was killed in a car accident early Sunday morning.

Police say the single 29 year old Hancock was by himself when his 2007 Ford Explorer crashed into the rear of a tow truck at 12:35 a.m.  The tow truck which weighs about 26,000 pounds was in the left lane of a two lane highway assisting another vehicle with its hazard light on when Hancock struck the back end of it.  He was pronounced dead at the scene. 

The driver of the tow trucks name has yet to be released, but authorities say the man was in his truck at the time of the crash.  The man told authorities that he remembers looking into this rear view mirror and seeing the SU try and swerve out of its way before hitting it. 

Police Chief Joe Mokwa said Hancock appeared to be driving close to the speed limit, if not 5 mph over, and there were no alcohol containers present when his vehicle was searched. 

“We may never know what occurred.  It appears that he just merely didn’t see the tow truck,” Mokwa told reporters.

An autopsy has been scheduled and funeral services have been announced for Thursday in Hancock’s hometown of Tupelo, MS.

The Cardinals postponed their home game against the Chicago Cubs this afternoon due to the tragedy.  A makeup date hasn’t been announced.

“All of baseball today mourns the tragic and untimely death of St. Louis pitcher Josh Hancock,” a statement released by commissioner Bud Selig said. “He was a fine young pitcher who played an important role on last year’s World Series championship team.”

This is the second time in five years that the Cardinals have had to cancel a game due to a death in the organization.  On June 22nd 2002, the team was also scheduled to play the Cubs when their starting pitcher, Daryle Kile, was noted absent at batting practice when he was later found dead in his hotel room of a heart attack.  He was 33 years old.

The Cardinals will wear patches of Hancock’s initials and his no. 32 for the rest of the season.  The team will make a memorial in their bullpen which also features a tribute to Kile.

“Obviously, this is very difficult for all of us, especially those of us who were here five years ago when we lost Daryle Kile,” Walt Jocketty, the teams’ general manager told reporters.

Only 1B Albert Pujols, CP Jason Isringhausen and CF Jim Edmunds remain with the team who also experienced the Kile tragedy five years ago.

Cardinal’s manager, Tony LaRussa, also the teams’ manager when Kile died was shaken by the news.  LaRussa told reporters that there’s now going to be huge hole to fill there in the bullpen.  He met with players shortly before the start of the game Sunday afternoon and provided details of the accident and to discuss memories of Hancock.

The news of Hancock’s death circulated around the Major League as moments of silence were held in both Cleveland and New York.

Former teammates of Hancock’s began to share their memories upon hearing the news including Jeff Weaver, a teammate of Hancock’s on last years World Series winning team.

“I never really had a phone call like that before.  It’s kind of mind-boggling.  We spent a lot of time together.  It was just hard to believe,” Weaver said.

Weaver also said that Hancock had called him a few days ago wondering if he had received his World Series ring yet. 

Hancock last pitched on Saturday night in three innings of relief in a 8-1 loss to the Cubs.  He pitched for four major league clubs including: Red Sox, Phillies, Reds and the Cardinals.  In his five years in major league relief, Hancock pitched in a total of 177.2 innings with a 9-7 record.  He struck out a total of 110 batters with a career high of 50 in 2006.  He had a career ERA of 4.20.

Hancock made his off season home in St. Louis and in 1997 helped Auburn reach the College World Series.

The Cardinals will begin a three game series in Milwaukee against the Brewers on Monday.  The team will charter a flight to Thursday’s funeral in Mississippi on their off day.  They will ten return home to St. Louis and begin a weekend series against the Houston Astros.

*The AP Contributed To This Report*