Joshua Morgan Hancock. Gone Too Soon. Never To Be Forgotten.

I have been working on a column for 5 days now going over the many issues and problems facing the 2007 St. Louis Cardinals. As we all know they are a deeply flawed team, with issues like being unable to get the big hit with runners in scoring position, and Tony blowing up at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch over an article chronicling the futility of the chicago cubs. But none of that matters anymore. Josh Hancock was killed Sunday morning at 12:35am when his Ford Explorer hit the rear of a flat bed tow truck in the far left lane of Interstate 40 near Compton Ave in St. Louis. He was on his way home to sleep in his new comfortable bed, and get some much deserved rest after a day at the ball park where he filled the role he had become all to accustomed to filling. Mop up duty in a 8-1 Cardinals loss to the cubs. He pitched 3 scoreless innings after Adam Wainwright gave up 7 runs in the 4 2/3rds of work. His job on the Cardinals was probably the most thankless position in the bullpen. But he loved every minute of it. And I guarantee you he wouldn’t have traded it for any other job on the planet.

I’ve been trying all day and night to come up with the right words to express how I am feeling right now. So many ideas have come and gone in my mind. I want to say just the right thing in hopes that someone from the Cardinals or Josh’s family would read it and gain comfort from it. But there is nothing I can say that will help them deal with such a tragic and sudden loss of their son, brother and team mate. Anything I could possibly come up with would sound hollow and not do them any good. As someone who up till a few years ago spent every Sunday of his life in a Baptist church, you would think I would have learned something and be able to pass it along. Well, I’ve learned a little. Here now is all I know.

I know that GOD has a plan and a purpose for each and every human being on this planet. One thought that came to me in the last hour was this. Josh almost didn’t make the team out of Jupiter this spring. It was down to him and Ricky Rincon. Tony and Dave thinking TJ and Randy could handle the south paw duties in the bullpen ended up choosing Josh over Rincon. I hope that Tony, Dave, Walt and anyone else involved with that decision will not look back on it as the wrong one to make. Thinking that if they had gone with Rincon, then Josh would still be alive today. Not gone take too soon. If they think that if Rincon being on the team instead of Josh would make any deference, then they would be wrong. GOD had a plan laid out for Josh, it ran from April 11th, 1978 to April 29th, 2007. And there was nothing any human could have done to prevented GOD from taking Josh early Sunday morning. As painful as that sounds, it’s true. None of us has total control over our lives. Sure, we can make daily decisions that can effect us. But when it comes right down to it, GOD has the final say. And if he says it’s your time to go, then it’s your time. Granted Josh might not have been driving home from Bob Costas’s charity function in the early hours of Sunday if Rincon had been chosen over him to make the team. But Sunday was his time. As cruel and cold as that may sound to some, it’s the truth. I know most who read this probably don’t share the same believes in GOD that I do. And I am sorry if anything I just said angered or hurt his family or anyone with the Cardinals. My point is this, GOD is in control. We are not. And if you accept that, and believe that GOD sent his only son, Jesus, to die on a cross for your sins. Then you have nothing to fear. Because when your time comes, and your time on earth is over. You will awake in the most wonderful world, and place called Heaven. Where your will spend all of eternity in peace and happiness. All your tears will be wiped away, all your earthy problems will be gone. No more worries. No more bills. No more traffic jams. No more deadlines. No more pain, or death. Everything in Heaven is perfect. And if you simply belive, that death has no power over you, you can live your life knowing that this is not the end, it’s only the begining. Now I don’t know if Josh was a christian. Being from the south I can only hope and pray he was. But even if he wasn’t. that doesn’t mean that anyone reading this can’t have what I’ve just said and so much more. If you’d like to know more, simply email me or Huge. And one of us will do our best to show you the only way you can have the peace and security of knowing that when you die, you will go to Heaven.

Josh was 6 months to the day younger than me. I’ve never known anyone my age who has died. I lost a cousin to cancer when I was 14, but we were not that close, and it never really regestered with me. Another thought that has been running around in my head all day is the saying, “But for the grace of GOD, there go I.” I am going to admit something I’ve never told anyone. As much as I brag about how great of a driver I am, there are times when my driving leaves much to be desired. I drive a little to fast, or I pass a car too closely. Usually it’s because I’m in a hurry to get no place special. Like last night. I was driving on 270 in Columbus in the middle of a pretty nasty thunderstorm. I was on my way home via the grocery store after taking my oldest nephew home who had spent Friday night at our house. It was after 9pm, and I remember thinking that there was a lot more traffic than there used to be. Since I’ve been taking care of dad, I never get out anymore. So it’s been at least two, maybe three years since I have been on that stretch of road at that time of night on a weekend. For anyone unfamiliar with 270, it’s the outer belt of Columbus. It’s mostly 4 lanes in both directions, but it goes from 3 to 6+ depending on what side of town you are on. I was on the north end, which is 4 lanes in both directions. Anyway it was poring. The rain was pretty heavy, and most traffic was in the two far right lanes. My exit was coming up and I was going 65, which is the speed limit, but everyone in the far lanes where going about 55. There was a lot more cars and I was getting closer and closer to my exit. I got into the second lane fine. But the traffic always slows up to about 45-50 MPH to take the exit I was trying to get to. So about a quarter of a mile from the on ramp, I pushed my way in between a Chevy Tahoe, and Honda Odyssey. My SUV is smaller than both of them, and I had no problem fitting in. Problem was, when I put my blinker on to get in front of the Honda, the driver sped up to block me. Have anyone of you ever done that? Whoever was driving kept a good 3 car lenghts back from the Chevy, but the second I pull up beside it, hit my breaks and go right to fall in line, the Honda speeds up. And then he slams on his horn when I don’t stop, and for the most part, cut the Honda off, simply because it sped up to prevent me from getting in front of them. Why he did that I don’t know. But if the Honda had not slowed down after trying to block me, it defiantly would have clipped my left rear end, and I probably would have gone flipping down 270 much like Kyle Busch did earlier that day on the back stretch of Talladaga Speedway. Who knows if I would have survived or not. But as I read more about Josh’s accident, I couldn’t help but wonder, “But for the grace of GOD, there go I.”

Josh was the typical Cardinal. He wansn’t the kind of superstar player who grabs the headlines on a daily basis. No, he was simply a good solid player, who worked hard to get where he was, and was pretty good at his job. Which as I mentioned earlier was generally middle relief, or mop up duty. A thankless job for sure. But ask any one of his teammates and they will tell you that the Cardinals don’t win the World Series without him. Everyone across the country is making comparisons to the death of DK in 2002 and Josh’s death Sunday. And rightfully so. But I want to point out something Tony said, actually the last thing Tony said that really reminds me of what happened to DK. Tony said that the last time Josh pitched for the Cardinals was in mop up duty. And he did that job very well. He held the cubs scoreless for 3 innings, and kept the Cards from really being embarrassed. And in a way, that’s just how DK’s last pitching performance went for the Cardinals. Sure he pitched them to a win and a division lead that they would lever again lose that season. But still, he did his job, and he did it well. Just like Josh did on Saturday afternoon in Busch III. Typical Cardinal performance. Not too flashy. Not a head line grabber. But he did exactly what his team needed him to do. Just like DK did for his team, Josh did the same for his. And that’s all a player can ask of a fellow teammate.

I don’t know how this team is going to cope with the loss of Josh Hancock. In 2002 they didn’t play too well for about two weeks to a month. But that team had a much more productive offense. And even with it’s rotation in flux with the loss of DK, their starters still held their own. IZZY, Edmond’s and Pujols are the only players still with the Cardinals that were there in June of 2002. The coaching staff for the most part is still in place, as is Walt and the rest of the front office. The younger players, Yadda, TJ, Adam, Anthony, etc are really going to have to lean on those few still left to help them deal with this tragic loss. You just can’t plan for this. And I have no idea how they are going to. Playing is probably the last thing on their mind right now as they try to get some sleep. I don’t expect much from the Cardinals as far as wins goes for the rest of the year. This is something you can never get over. But they could use this tragedy as inspiration to start a winning trend that goes on for the rest of the year. I do know I share the players thoughts right now that not much else matters. Especially playing a baseball game. It all seams so small now. All our daily problems each of us deal with. When a death like Josh’s happens, everyone involved is left to wondering why? Why did this happen? In the Cardinals case I am sure a lot of the players are thinking, why do I care so much about beating the Brewers? After all, it’s just a game. No matter what happens, dad and I won’t stop pulling for the home team. We will watch every game we can, and hope for the best. I think that’s all we fans can do. Hope for the best. And pray for Josh’s family. 

One final thought then I’m going to close. Shortly after my dad was told he had ALS, and was going to die, a friend of mine who I used to work for asked me how I could seam OK with it, and not be pissed off and mad at GOD for letting this happen to a good person. Maybe it was that the severity of dad’s illness hadn’t hit me yet, or maybe I really belive this. But I told him something my grandma had told me when my grandpa died. GOD allows bad things to happen to good people because they are the only ones strong enough to deal with them. If you think about that it makes sence. I don’t know why GOD allowed the Cardinals to lose two players during the season five years apart. I don’t know why GOD allowed two famlies to go through so much pain and misery. I do know this, being a part of the Cardinals is special. You really are part of a small extended family that spans the globe, and generations of fans. I’m biased when I say this, but Cardinals fans are some of the best people in the world. I like to think we are all special. I hope we are the type that can handle anything thrown our way, good or bad. We had something very good in October to go though. Sadly now we have something very bad to experience. I hope just like we got through losing DK, we all can get through this season after losing Josh. It’s going to take lots of prayers.

As I close I just want to pass on my deepest sympathy’s to Josh’s family. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I hope if anyone from his family has read this gains a little comfort knowing how much Josh meant to not just me, but all Cardinal fans. He wasn’t just a guy who pitched for our favorite team. He was more like a member of our family. Because that’s what it’s like being a Cardinal. You are part of a world wide family. That will always be there for you when you need us most. In good times and bad, we are your family. And we share this tragic loss with almost as much sorrow as Josh’s parents and siblings. GOD’s speed Josh. I hope and pray you are in Heaven, talking to DK and Jack. Swapping stories about the greatest baseball team ever. Rest in peace Josh, you were taken from us far too soon. You will forever be missed. And we will never forget you.


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