|Saturday, June 22
Updated: June 24, 2:28 PM ET
Kiles' ex-teammate Dunston searches for answers
By Ray Ratto
Special to ESPN.com
Shawon Dunston's career against Darryl Kile was much like most others who faced the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher who died Saturday at age 33 -- 25 at-bats, four hits, one homer, four RBI. Kile didn't own Dunston, but he knew what to do about him.
But in the wake of Kile's death, Dunston, now a San Francisco Giant, thought only about Kile the teammate, from the year they shared in St. Louis, two seasons ago.
"He was with me on the Cardinals (in 2000), a place with first-class fans and a first-class organization ... the nicest team I've ever been on,'' Dunston said. "He was a first-class player and person. He played in Colorado (in the pitcher-eating machine that is Coors Field), he'd give up 10 runs in a game, and he never complained, never skipped a start, never said nothin' bad. No excuses.
"He would always work with young pitchers. He helped Matt Morris become a great pitcher, he would work with Rick Ankiel (the Cardinal super-prospect whose career has been sidetracked by inexplicable bouts of wildness). He was a great guy ... it's just not fair.''
In fact, Dunston's inner outrage was such that he barely made it through Saturday's 4-2 loss to Baltimore. He didn't feel like playing -- he felt like catching the next flight to Chicago to be with his grieving ex-teammates.
"I was laying down (in the clubhouse) thinking about what I had to do for today's game when I heard,'' Dunston said in a low, disconsolate tone. "I heard it, and I just broke down. It isn't fair.''
Moments later, manager Dusty Baker came over to Dunston. "I wanted to tell him before he saw it on the TV, but it was too late,'' Baker said. "I told him if he couldn't go to let me know, but ... we talked for a few minutes. He was shocked. We all were.''
"It was real hard,'' Dunston said. "I talked to Dusty, and he said I didn't have to play, and then I talked with Jeff Kent and he said I shouldn't play ... but I had a job to do.''
So he did, like the other 49 men at Pacific Bell Park on Saturday who learned what happened when Joe Buck, who just buried his father Jack the day before, announced it on Fox just before the Cardinals-Cubs game that was postponed.
But it was hard, perhaps as hard for Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove as anyone. Hargrove, who managed in Cleveland when pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews were killed in a boating accident in Florida during spring training of 1993, reflected painfully on the difficulty of getting his team to play its best baseball day in and day out that season.
"It's going to be a long, hard road for them,'' Hargrove said. "It's going to take a long time. I don't envy them. They'll get through this, but it will be awfully difficult. It's terrible. There aren't words to describe it.''
Yet words are all we have, for now.
Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com