Police: Cardinals' Hancock was drunk at time of fatal accident Print
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Friday, 04 May 2007 22:51
MLB Headline News

 ST. LOUIS (AP) -The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping other players will learn from Josh Hancock's fatal mistakes.
The pitcher was drunk and talking on his cell phone at the time of his accident Sunday, and marijuana was found in the sport utility vehicle he was driving. Team officials said they will re-examine what they can do to warn players of the dangers of drinking and driving.
``I think it's probably a wakeup call to everybody,'' general manager Walt Jocketty said at a news conference at Busch Stadium on Friday. ``The one thing they have to understand is they're not invincible. They have to conduct themselves and make better decisions. Unfortunately, Josh didn't make very good decisions that night.''
Medical examiner Michael Graham said at a news conference Friday that the 29-year-old reliever was dead ``within seconds'' from head injuries in the crash early Sunday on Interstate 64 in St. Louis. His vehicle hit the back of a tow truck parked on the highway to assist a driver from a previous accident.
``There is nothing at all that could have been done for him,'' Graham said.
Hancock's blood-alcohol level was 0.157, nearly twice Missouri's legal limit of 0.08, Graham said. Marijuana was also found in the sport utility vehicle he was driving.
Police Chief Joe Mokwa said 8.55 grams of marijuana and a glass pipe used to smoke marijuana were found in the rented Ford Explorer. Toxicology tests to determine if drugs were in his system had not been completed.
Before the Cardinals' 3-2 win over the Houston Astros, the team banned alcohol in the clubhouse in what manager Tony La Russa termed a largely symbolic move. The Cardinals also were considering banning alcohol on the road.
``It's meaningful,'' La Russa said. ``But it's not a significant factor in our clubhouse because our guys don't stay in the clubhouse to drink.''
La Russa was arrested on a drunken driving charge in Jupiter, Fla., in March, when police said they found him asleep at the wheel at a traffic light. His blood alcohol level was measured at 0.093 - Florida's legal limit is 0.08. His lawyer waived La Russa's arraignment last month and requested a trial. No trial date has been set.
An accident reconstruction team determined Hancock was traveling 68 mph in a 55 mph zone when his SUV struck the back of a flatbed tow truck stopped in a driving lane. Mokwa said there was no evidence Hancock tried to stop. He did swerve, but too late to avoid the collision.
Hancock wasn't wearing a seat belt, but Graham said the belt wouldn't have prevented his death.
Mokwa said Hancock was speaking with a female acquaintance about baseball and baseball tickets and that the conversation ended abruptly, apparently when the accident occurred. A police report said Hancock told the female acquaintance he was on his way to another bar, and that he planned to meet her there.
Hancock, a key bullpen member on the World Series championship team last season, was driving alone.
Teammate Jim Edmonds said he didn't think Hancock had a drinking problem. He believed that by eliminating one of several elements - alcohol, talking on the cell phone, speeding, a tow truck parked in a traffic lane with somewhat limited visibility - Hancock probably would have made it to his destination.
``I didn't think he had a problem, no,'' Edmonds said. ``Were we concerned when he didn't show up on time for a day game? I can say I was. I wasn't concerned with him being out.''
shortly after midnight.
Around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, the tow truck came upon a disabled Geo Prism and stopped behind it with its yellow lights flashing to protect the car. A few moments later, Hancock's SUV struck the rear of the tow truck. The tow truck driver, who honked his horn to try to get Hancock's attention before the crash, was not hurt.
Graham said Hancock had severe chest injuries as well as the fatal head injuries.
An estimated 500 mourners turned out Thursday for a memorial service for Hancock in Tupelo, Miss., recalling the pitcher as a goodhearted prankster. Among the mourners were Hancock's teammates, coaches, La Russa and Jocketty. Hancock was buried Wednesday in rural Itawamba County, Miss.
On Friday, the Cardinals placed a tribute to Hancock, his initials and uniform number in a black circle, in the bullpen. It's just a few feet away from an identical tribute to Darryl Kile, who died in 2002.
Hancock, who joined the team in spring training in 2006, also was honored with a short video, followed by a moment of silence. About a dozen of his teammates gathered at the warning track just below the video board in center field to watch the video.
Hancock joined the Cardinals in spring training last season after Cincinnati released him for violating a weight clause in his contract. He also pitched for Boston and Philadelphia.
Three days before the fatal wreck, Hancock was involved in another accident. The front bumper of his SUV was torn off in a crash with a tractor-trailer that happened at 5:30 a.m. on April 26 in Sauget, Ill., when Hancock moved forward into an intersection to make a left turn.
Hancock was late for the Cardinals' game the same day as that accident and was fined for his tardiness. He didn't tell La Russa about the accident, the manager said. La Russa said nothing team officials knew would have led them to think Hancock had a drinking problem.
Hancock's death marked the second time in five years the Cardinals have mourned the loss of a teammate. Kile was found dead in his Chicago hotel room in 2002. Kile, 33, died of a coronary artery blockage.
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Associated Press Writer Jim Salter and AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom contributed to this report.
 

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