In his two years at Colorado’s Coors Field, Kile learned some hard lessons about friction — specifically, how thinner air means less friction on a rotating baseball, which in turn translates to curveballs that don’t break. And, as Kile discovered, curveballs that don’t break often turn into home runs, leading to the worst two seasons of his career from 1998-99.
Kile had begun his career with the Houston Astros‘ organization in 1988 and spent seven years as a frontline pitcher in the relative safety of the Astrodome. His arsenal of sinking fastballs and knee-buckling curveballs helped him win 19 games and an All-Star berth in 1997. But after signing a big-money deal in Colorado, Kile went 21-30 with a mile-high 5.83 ERA over the next two seasons.
Traded with long-suffering pitchers Dave Veres and Luther Hackman to the St. Louis Cardinals in November 1999, Kile recaptured some of his former glory. In 2000, he became the Cards’ staff ace, going 20-9 with a 3.91 ERA. A quiet leader, Kile’s intense preparation before each start set the standard for the rest of the Cardinals’ rotation, and his 16 wins in 2001 helped the Cardinals win the NL Wild Card.
Kile’s career came to a tragic end on June 22, 2002, when he was found dead in his hotel room hours before a game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. An autopsy revealed severe blockages in Kile’s coronary artery. His father died of a stroke at the age of 44.