A death in the baseball family

Cards reliever Josh Hancock killed in car crash

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Cardinals relief pitcher Josh Hancock was killed early Sunday in an accident on Highway 40 (Interstate 64), just west of Compton Avenue, authorities said.

Hancock's Ford Explorer slammed into the rear of a tow truck that was parked in the far left westbound lane shortly after 12:30 a.m.  The tow truck driver, who was seated in the vehicle at the time, was unhurt.

He told police that his emergency lights were on, and that he honked his horn when he saw the Explorer approaching in his rear view mirror, but that the Explorer didn't slow down or swerve to avoid the collision.

At the time of the accident, the tow truck driver was assisting a motorist from an earlier accident.

Hancock, 29, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Cardinals released a statement confirming Hancock's death, and will make another statement at 3 p.m. at Busch Stadium.

Their home game game tonight against the Chicago Cubs has been called off and will be played later this season. A new date has not been set.

Hancock was a key member of the bullpen that helped the Cardinals win the World Series last season, leading the team's relievers with 77 regular-season innings pitched.

Hancock pitched for four major league clubs. He went 3-3 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 after pitching three innings in Saturday's game vs. the Cubs at Busch.

Hancock joined the Cardinals before the 2006 season. He has pitched for Boston, Philadelphia and Cincinnati.

He was single.

It is the second time in less than five years that an active Cardinals player has died during the season. In June 2002, pitcher Darryl Kile was found dead in his Chicago hotel room as the Cardinals were preparing to play the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Kile, 33, died of a coronary artery blockage.

Three days before Hancock's 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 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.

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