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Memorials Continue For Cardinals Reliever Josh Hancock After Fatal Crash

8:34 PM, Apr 30, 2007   |    comments
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  • PHOTO GALLERY: Fans leave items at Busch Stadium in memory of Josh Hancock
  • Josh Hancock talks with NewsChannel 5's Rene Knott (April 25, 2007) KSDK - The tributes for Josh Hancock continue. Fans continue to leave memorials for the Cardinals pitcher at Busch Stadium, as his friends and family prepared for Thursday s funeral. Hancock will be buried in his hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi. Before Monday night's game in Milwaukee, there was a moment of silence. Scott Spiezio asked not to play. Josh Hancock's jersey hung in the bullpen. (Click here to read about Monday's game) Hancock was killed early Sunday morning when his SUV slammed into a tow truck. That tow truck was behind a disabled car on Highway 40, in the left lane, near the Grand/Forest Park Avenue exit. The tow truck driver said he saw Hancock’s vehicle heading for him, but the SUV didn’t swerve until it was too late. Justin Tolar heard the crash. Tolar was the driver of the disabled car, which had come to a stop after hitting the concrete median. He was standing outside the car in the median when he heard the crash. He dropped his phone. He ran to the tow truck driver, still in his cab, who told him he was ok. Tolar ran to Hancock’s vehicle. He felt for a pulse. He knew there was nothing he could do. “I don't know what to think or act or anything right now,” Tolar told NewsChannel 5’s Ann Rubin Sunday afternoon. “I just keep thinking about him and wishing there was something I could have done.” Police say they don’t think Hancock was speeding. “It doesn't appear at this time that he was driving an extremely excessive speed,” said St. Louis Police Chief Joe Mokwa. “He might have been doing right around the speed limit, or just a little bit more.” After Saturday afternoon’s loss to the Cubs, Hancock went to Mike Shannon’s restaurant. When he left several hours later, the restaurant’s manager, Pat Shannon, offered to call him a cab. He declined, she says, and told friends he was going to walk to the Westin. An autopsy was scheduled. The crash happened at about 12:30 a.m. Less than 4 hours later, Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa called Hancock’s parents to tell them their son had died. "There's a big hole that's going to be there," La Russa said. "This is brutal to go through." (Click here to watch Sunday afternoon's news conference ) “You have your family at home and family in that clubhouse. One of the things that’s really painful here is that Josh's teammates were his family,” said LaRussa. Just a few days earlier, Hancock had worried his teammates. He’d overslept in his hotel, and his phone was off, he said. He didn’t hear the calls from his worried teammates, some of whom were there 5 years ago, when Darryl Kile didn’t show up at the ballpark. Kile had died in his sleep in his hotel room of a coronary artery blockage. NewsChannel 5 learned Monday that Hancock had been in an accident that morning when his car was hit by a tractor trailer at 5:30 a.m. in Sauget. (Click here to read that story) After oversleeping, Hancock made it to the ball park and apologized. He thought the game started later. But it showed just how much his teammates cared. "Josh was a great teammate and a great friend to everybody, and he was a key part of our success," said Braden Looper, who spent last season in the bullpen with Hancock. (Braden Looper speaks at a Sunday afternoon news conference ) The team will wear a patch in honor of Hancock, with his number 32. There will also be a memorial in the bullpen, where there is already a memorial for Darryl Kile. The team, in Milwaukee for a 3-game series starting Monday night, will fly on a chartered jet to Tupelo for Thursday’s funeral. They’ll then return to St. Louis for a series that starts Friday night. Walt Jocketty, the team’s General Manager, arranged for the charter. "Obviously, this is very difficult for all of us, especially those of us who were here five years ago when we lost Darryl Kile," said Jocketty Sunday. "There's no way we could have played tonight's game." The Cardinals lost the game Monday night, 7-1 to the Brewers. Braden Looper was scheduled to be the starter, Kip Wells made the start instead. Former Cardinal Jeff Suppan pitched a complete game for the Brewers. (Cardinals broadcaster John Rooney talks with NewsChannel 5's Frank Cusumano ) (Cardinals broadcaster Jay Randolph talks with NewsChannel 5 Sports Director Rene Knott ) Throughout the league, there were moments of silence at some of the games. And there were many kind words from those who knew Hancock, including former teammates. Among them is the Brewers' scheduled starter Monday night. "He was quiet, kind of soft-spoken, but definitely a good guy," said Jeff Suppan, who helped lead the Cardinals to the World Series championship. "It's a sad day. Your feelings go out toward his family and his teammates now." Jeff Weaver, now with Seattle, said, "I never really had a phone call like that before. It's kind of mind-boggling. Just a few days ago I had talked to him on the phone, touching base again because we were pretty good friends at the time." Hancock’s college roommate was Tim Hudson, now a starting pitcher with the Atlanta Braves. "It feels like being punched in the stomach right now," he said. "Josh was such a good person. I saw him a few times a year going back to Auburn for football games. It's really a shock." Hudson was also dealing with the death of his grandmother Sunday. His college coach, Hal Baird, called Hancock, “A very special talent.” Baird followed Hancock’s pro career, and had seen him at last year’s spring training. "It's a terrible loss for Josh and his family and the Auburn baseball family. My thoughts and prayers go out to them in this difficult time." (Cubs manager Lou Piniella speaks at a Sunday afternoon news conference ) Here are some quotes from around baseball on the death Josh Hancock By The Associated Press "All of baseball today mourns the tragic and untimely death of St. Louis pitcher Josh Hancock. He was a fine young pitcher who played an important role on last year's World Series championship team." -- baseball commissioner Bud Selig. ------ "There's a big hole that's going to be there. This is brutal to go through." -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. ------ "It's kind of mind-boggling. Just a few days ago I had talked to him on the phone, touching base again because we were pretty good friends at the time." -- Seattle Mariners pitcher Jeff Weaver, who won the World Series clincher for St. Louis in October. ------ "The young man had done so well last fall and had a promising career. It's just terrible." -- Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle. ------ "Josh was just a super kid. I couldn't have been happier for him getting to the big leagues because he was such a humble, hard worker." -- New York Mets closer Billy Wagner, who knew Hancock from the 2004 Phillies. ------ "He was a nice guy, a gamer. He wanted the ball." -- Cleveland Indians outfielder Jason Michaels, who was Hancock's teammate in Philadelphia. ------ "I remember meeting him in spring training and got the impression that he just loved the game. You could tell he had good stuff and was going to be in the bigs. I remember watching him on TV in the postseason last year and saying how he was a key part of the Cardinals' bullpen." -- Indians outfielder Trot Nixon, a member of the Boston Red Sox when Hancock made his major league debut in 2002. ------ "Obviously, it touches everybody when something like that happens in baseball. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the Cardinal organization." -- Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia. ------ "It was good to see him go over there last year, because the Reds released him before position players even got to camp. He got picked up by St. Louis, had a really good year for them and ended up getting a World Series ring. I was glad to see him enjoy some of that success." -- San Francisco Giants infielder Rich Aurilia. ------ "It's kind of a little turn in your gut. It's one of those reality checks that you never know when your time is." -- Cincinnati Reds pitcher Matt Belisle, a former teammate. ------ "Josh was a part of arguably the best pitching staff and arguably the best team ever to play at Auburn." -- Tigers coach Tom Slater, an assistant at the school when Hancock played there. ------ "This is the sort of sad reminder of how fragile life is. A lot of times, we think of ourselves as invincible. This shows us we're not." -- Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Tony Clark, who was in Red Sox camp with Hancock in 2002. ________ The Associated Press contributed to this report. (Portions Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

    KSDK and the Associated Press

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