ST. LOUIS - St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock was drunk and talking on his cell phone at the time of his fatal accident, and marijuana was found in the sport utility vehicle he was driving.
Medical examiner Michael Graham said during a news conference yesterday 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.
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 whether drugs were in his system had not been completed.
An accident reconstruction team determined that Hancock was traveling 68 m.p.h. in a 55-m.p.h. 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 was not wearing a seat belt, but Graham said the belt would not have prevented his death.
Mokwa said that 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 that he was on his way to another bar, and that he planned to meet her there.
Hancock, a key bullpen member of the World Series championship team last season, was driving alone.
Cardinals officials expressed sadness at the news and said the team would reexamine what it can do to warn players of the dangers of drinking and driving.
"I think it's probably a wake-up call to everybody," general manager Walt Jocketty said during a news conference at Busch Stadium. "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."
The Cardinals banned alcohol from the clubhouse yesterday. Manager Tony La Russa said Jocketty did not consult players before making the decision. La Russa said it was a largely symbolic move since players don't drink much in the clubhouse anyway.
The team also is considering an alcohol ban on the road.
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.
Hancock, who pitched three innings of relief in last Saturday's 8-1 loss to the Cubs, left Busch Stadium about 6:30 p.m. and arrived about two hours later at Mike Shannon's Steaks and Seafood, a restaurant and bar owned by the former Cardinals third baseman who is a team broadcaster. Police said Hancock left Shannon's shortly after midnight.
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 the Sauget accident and was fined for his tardiness. He did not tell La Russa about the Illinois accident, the manager said. La Russa said nothing team officials knew would have led them to think Hancock had a drinking problem.