Opening the month of June with a 16-3 record, former Burroughs
High baseball standout Mike Magnante and his Oakland Athletics
teammates had reason to be in a good mood after going 10-17 in the
month of May.
But reality struck hard for Magnante and many players in major
league baseball a week ago when they heard of the death of St. Louis
Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile.
Kyle died in his sleep June 21. An initial autopsy reveled that
Kyle died of coronary atherosclerosis, a blockage of main arteries to
the heart. Kile, who left a wife and three children, was just 33.
Magnante and Kile were teammates with the Houston Astros in 1997,
and Magnante has many fond memories of his fallen colleague. He said
he was also shocked when he first heard of his former teammate's
"I was on the team bus going to the stadium and one of our
relievers, Jim Mecir, said Darryl Kile was found dead. At first I was
almost like 'it can't be right,' " said Magnante, a relief pitcher
with Oakland. "I called my wife right away to turn on the TV to see
if it was true, and unfortunately, it was.
"On our team, we have three guys who played with him and Art Howe
Although they played together for just one season, Magnante -- who
played at UCLA -- and Kile knew each other long before the 1997
"Darryl once told me he'd been on a recruiting trip to UCLA and he
remembered me," said Magnante, of Kile, who grew up in the Inland
Empire. "We followed each other through the minors. We played against
each other in Class-A ball and in Double A."
Although both went on to have successful major league careers,
they shared struggles together in the minors.
"He told me once we had set a Southern League record on the same
night in two different cities, and it's a record you don't want to
remember because we both walked the first six batters we faced,"
Magnante, 37, who began his career with the Kansas City Royals,
joined the Astros in 1997.
"When I went to spring training, Darryl was one of the first guys
to come over and greet me. He was recounting the UCLA thing. It was
like we had been friends for years," Magnante said.
Both Kile and Magnante had the best seasons of their career in
1997. Kile went 19-7 with a 2.57 earned-run average and Magnante went
3-1 with a 2.27 earned-run average out of the bullpen.
"In Houston, I'd play catch with Billy Wagner, but I'd [go] over
to Darryl and I'd get down like a catcher and catch him. Darryl is
the reason why I throw a side-armed curve ball," Magnante said. "We
were screwing around one day and I tried to throw one. I threw about
three and he said, 'You're doing what I did wrong' and he proceeded
to teach me. And I used it that next game."
Magnante, who wore number 57 with the Royals, said he often joked
with Kile about giving up the number to him when they were with the
Astros. They both broke into the major leagues in 1991, and seniority is usually a determining factor if two players want the same number.
But the one thing Magnante said that he will remember most about
Kile was his friendliness with everyone on the team, extending from
the highest-paid player to the youngest rookie.
"Darryl included everyone in everything he did," Magnante said.
"He set up golf matches on off-days and if he was setting up, it
included everyone from the highest paid guy to the lowest, [along
with] the coaches and the media."
Magnante said pitchers usually hang out together and position
players usually stick together off the field, but some of Kile's best
friends in Houston weren't pitchers.
"He and Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell were as close as one could
be," Magnante said.
Stunned by the news of Kile's death, Magnante said he faced the
difficult task of having to pitch in the wake of the tragedy, even
though his mind was on Kile.
"You learn over the years mentally that you have to put things
aside," Magnante said. "There are things you don't want to be out
there doing, but you have to."
Magnante said what makes Kile's death so tough on many who knew
the Cardinals player is that he was so well liked -- and because of
"It's always a tragedy," Magnante said. "Sometimes, it's someone
who doesn't make a wise choice. In this case, this guy took care of
himself. I think all of baseball was somber."