Earlier wreck, report of drinking fog Hancock death

Updated: May 2, 2007, 4:44 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The death of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock became more complicated on Monday with revelations of an earlier accident and a report of drinking.

Just three days before his death in a freeway wreck, the sport utility vehicle of Hancock was clipped by a semi rig in Sauget, Ill., a St. Louis suburb.

Officers who talked with Hancock moments after the predawn crash last Thursday in Sauget, a village known for its factories and strip clubs, found the 29-year-old reliever to be lucid and not under the influence of alcohol, Police Chief Patrick Delaney said Tuesday.

No sobriety or breath tests were given to Hancock, and no tickets were issued, according to Delaney.

Hancock was killed Sunday in St. Louis when his rental SUV slammed into a flatbed tow truck on Interstate 64. Autopsy results have not been released, and toxicology tests are pending.

MLB.com is reporting that toxicology and autopsy results may be available as early as Friday, according to a representative from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

Although toxicology results sometimes take several weeks, a police representative explained that the information on Hancock's wreck may be available sooner.

"It can take a lot longer, but this is a top priority, so that's why it's being expedited," she told MLB.com.

In Sauget, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Hancock was at a stop sign about 5:30 a.m Thursday when he inched his vehicle out a bit into the intersection, presumably to see around big trucks and other vehicles that frequently park there, Delaney said.

A passing tractor-trailer unit traveling around the posted speed limit of 45 mph clipped Hancock's vehicle and sheered off the front bumper, the chief said. Neither motorist was injured.

Hancock "was very fortunate," Delaney said. "If he would have inched up another inch and that truck would have hit, it would have been much more serious accident."

The accident happened on Illinois Route 3 off of Yellow Brick Road -- named for its proximity to the Oz nightclub. The intersection is also near a liquor store and small-scale truck stop.

There was no indication Hancock had been drinking or appeared intoxicated, and managers of the Oz told police Hancock had not been at that club that night, Delaney said.

"The officers said they felt Josh was not impaired whatsoever," the chief said, noting that Hancock did not get preferential police treatment as a Cardinal because the responding officer -- a female -- "didn't know Josh Hancock from John Doe."

A message left at Lehn's home Tuesday was not immediately returned.

Hancock wanted to drive his vehicle home from the Sauget police station but could not because the accident damaged its radiator. While waiting for a cab that eventually took him home, Delaney said, Hancock told another officer he hated following a Cardinals night game with a daytime one and that he routinely drove around to make himself tired enough to rest, the chief said.

"He said how he hated -- he used that word -- to play day games after a night game, that he had trouble sleeping and was out driving around," Delaney said.

Hours later, Hancock showed up late at Busch Stadium for the Cardinals' day game against the Cincinnati Reds and insisted he thought the game time was later and had overslept in a new bed.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Monday, however, that a couple in a bar on the night Hancock died overheard the pitcher telling an ESPN radio personality that he "had spent all night drinking," and that's why he was late for the Thursday game.

Baseball analyst Dave Campbell said that Hancock did not say anything like that, but the player did introduce himself that evening at Mike Shannon's Restaurant and Bar and the two talked baseball.

The couple also said that Hancock was served "several drinks" the night he died, but they could not say how much or if he was intoxicated. Campbell told ESPN that he had no sense of the pitcher's condition when he left him at approximately 9:45 p.m. to go to another restaurant.

The customer in the Post-Dispatch article said that Hancock was drinking at least through 10:30 p.m. when the customer left.

Police in St. Louis said Hancock was driving a rental SUV when he fatally crashed into a flatbed tow truck early Sunday. Police chief Joe Mokwa said it appeared Hancock was driving at or just above the speed limit, and there were no alcohol containers in his vehicle.

A memorial service for Hancock has been set for Thursday in Tupelo, Miss. The Cardinals are chartering a plane that will get them there in time for a lunch with the Hancock family.

A private funeral for the family is being held Wednesday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.