St. Louis Cardinals' Pitcher Was DUI at the Time of Fatal Drunken Driving Accident
By: Gerri Elder
The recent death of St. Louis Cardinals' relief pitcher Josh Hancock in a drunken driving accident has caused many people to urge Major League Baseball to ban alcohol from team clubhouses and ultimately reveals the dangers of drunk driving.
Less than 12 hours after pitching three innings of relief during an 8-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday April 28th, Hancock was instantly killed in the early morning hours of Sunday when he crashed his SUV into the back of a tow truck that was pulled on the side of the road to help a driver from another accident.
Last week, medical examiner Michael Grishalm revealed that Hancock was DUI and talking on his cell phone at the time of the fatal accident. Specifically, Hancock's blood alcohol content (BAC) level was 0.157 percent at the time of accident, nearly two times the legal 0.08 percent limit under Missouri DUI law.
Police Chief Joe Mokwa said that 8.55 grams of marijuana and a glass pipe used to smoke the drug were found in Hancock's rented Ford Explorer. An Associated Press story did not detail whether Hancock was driving under the influence of marijuana as well, but this tragic incident is another example of how DUI applies to alcohol or drugs.
An accident reconstruction team detailed that Hancock was driving 68 mph in a 55 mph zone and talking to a female friend on his cell phone while he was driving en route to another St. Louis bar after just leaving another bar in the area. When he saw the tow truck, Hancock was unable to swerve and avoid it. He died of fatal head injuries within seconds and also suffered severe chest injuries.
The Cubs-Cardinals game for later that day was eventually postponed. Cardinals' Manager Tony LaRussa explained in a news conference that day how he had to call Hancock's father to inform of the death and then expressed his grief about the tragic situation. On a side note, La Russa was arrested on suspicion of Florida DUI during spring training in March.
Following the death of Hancock, many sports columnists throughout the nation have been urging Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to stop teams from providing alcohol to players after the game and to ultimately ban these beverages from the clubhouse.
On May 5th, commissioner's office spokesman Rich Levin expressed the league's grief over Hancock's death and revealed its intolerance for drunk driving. Levin added that a number of teams already ban alcohol from their clubhouses and indicated that he would expect more teams to do so. However, Levin did not say anything about the league taking such a step.
St. Louis General Manager Walt Jocketty and La Russa admitted that the club has continued to provide its players beer following the death of Hancock. Jocketty has recently said that the team would "examine and discuss" this policy, indicating that changes could be in store.
Hancock's Death Teaches Valuable Lesson about the Dangers of Drunk Driving
Being a professional athlete carries a lot of responsibility. Players are held to a high standard on and off the field as the constant scrutiny of professional athletes and the reverence of them as celebrity figures truly reveals.
With that said, a player's mistakes off the field are going to garner much more attention. In this case, Hancock made the ultimate mistake of driving drunk and paid dearly with his life. While a sad and tragic loss, maybe the fact that a sports figure like Hancock-a significant member of the Cardinals' World Championship team last fall-was killed because of his own drunk driving will shed some more light to people about the severe consequences accompanying DUI.
In addition to the fact that nearly 17,000 people died in drunk driving accidents in 2005 alone, DUI can change lives forever in the forms of devastating injuries and serious DUI penalties, including jail time with the possibility of a prison term.