Tony La Russa made the call Sunday morning. It was far too early for Dean Hancock, Josh Hancock's father, to receive the news.
Josh, a relief pitcher for La Russa's St. Louis Cardinals, was dead, having careened his Ford Explorer off the back of the tow truck on the side of the road just after midnight Sunday. As soon as the police notified him, La Russa took a deep breath and made the call to Tupelo, Mississippi and told Dean Hancock of his loss.
Did La Russa ever make it back to bed Sunday? It's hard to imagine that he did. La Russa had a lot on his mind. There were practical matters to attend to. Would there be a game on Sunday? How would the team find out? How would he handle the press?
As he focused on the logistics, La Russa's thoughts certainly strayed to Darryl Kile's death only five years ago. He had an unfortunate amount of experience in handling the unexpected death of a young man in his charge. Kile's death in 2002, hours before (again) a game against the Chicago Cubs, couldn't have been predicted by La Russa. Kile's congenital heart condition could have been spotted only through a battery of tests that, at the time, were highly unusual for baseball clubs to apply to prime examples of manhood.
What else did La Russa consider in the wee hours of Sunday morning? Did he think about Hancock's hangover just three days before? Did he consider the other times Hancock, a single man who was described by at least one person as "shy, and a little lonely", came in worse for wear?
Reports from St. Louis today suggest La Russa read Hancock the riot act for being late Thursday. Did La Russa wonder if he made the right call in letting him off with a warning and a fine?