Josh Hancock

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Joshua Morgan Hancock

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Josh Hancock was a right-handed pitcher who pitched for six seasons with four major league clubs including the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals. He was a member of the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals team which won the World Series. During college, he had appeared in a College World Series. He once tied for a AAA league's lead in shutouts. Hancock battled injuries and weight problems during his career. He died in a automobile accident during the 2007 season, which was followed by a legal case by Hancock's relatives.

Amateur career[edit]

Hancock was born in Mississippi but moved to Vestavia Hills, Alabama, outside of Birmingham, when he was a child. In high school, he played on three state championship teams, and in his senior season in 1996, he went 9 - 0 with a 0.92 ERA. He was named to an All-State team, the Mizuno High School All-American team, and was the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Alabama. Hancock was selected by Milwaukee Brewers in the fourth round (103rd overall) of 1996 amateur draft but did not sign instead opting to attend Auburn University. In his only season with the Tigers, Hancock helped lead the team to the 1997 College World Series, going 2-0, with a 4.75 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 13 appearances including two starts for a team that would go 49 - 15. He was selected by Boston Red Sox in fifth round (145th overall) of 1998 amateur draft and signed with the club two weeks later.

Minor Leagues[edit]

Hancock started out his professional career with the GCL Red Sox in 1998. He pitched in 5 games for the team, going 1 - 1 with a 3.38 ERA in 13 1/3 innings pitched, including a start. He held opposing batters to .196 average with a 21 strikeouts to 3 walks. Hancock also started a single game for short-season A Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League in that year. He went 4 innings, facing nineteen batters, giving up 2 runs (one earned) on five hits, with four walks and four strikeouts. In 1999, Hancock moved to Augusta Green Jackets in the South Atlantic League where he was joined the starting rotation. He went 6 - 8 in 25 starts for the eventual league champions. He led the club with 139 2/3 innings pitched, but was the team's third-best starter behind Greg Miller and Jason Norton with a 3.80 ERA due to his 154 hits allowed (9.92 per inning) including 12 home runs. He had a respectable 106/46 K/BB ratio but had ten wild pitches.

Hancock advanced to the Sarasota Red Sox of the Florida State League in 2000. He appeared in 26 games, with 24 starts and threw one complete game en route to a 5 - 10 win-loss record. His peripheral stats continued to decline, in 130 2/3 innings pitched; he gave up 164 hits (10.27 h/9), struck out 95 (8.2 so/9). Two bright spots were his walk rate which dropped to 2.32 (37 walks) and his home run rate per nine innings dropped by a quarter to 0.56. Hancock continued to move up the Red Sox chain to the AA Trenton Thunder in the Eastern League in 2001. In 24 games, he posted a 8 - 6 record with a 3.65 earned run average. In 130 2/3 innings, pitched he allowed 138 hits, and had 119 strikeouts with 37 bases-on-balls.

Reaching the Majors in 2002[edit]

Remaining at Trenton for the start of the 2002 season, at 24, Hancock posted his best season to date. In 15 games for the Eastern League club, he won three and lost four but had a 3.61 ERA; his lowest since his 13.1 stint in the Gulf Coast League four years prior. In 84 2/3 innings pitched, he had a 69/18 K/BB ratio with 82 hits. This performance earned Hancock a promotion to AAA Pawtucket. In eight games for the club, he went 4 - 2 with a 3.45 ERA in 44 1/3 innings. Hancock won his first three starts with Pawtucket from July 24 to August 3. He posted his lowest hit rate since his rookie year at 7.92 (39 hits) but had a poor 29/26 K/BB ratio. Nevertheless, on September 3 he was called up to the Red Sox after rosters expanded.

On September 10, Hancock made his Major League debut for the Red Sox at Tropicana Field against the Devil Rays. Entering the game in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 12 - 1 blowout, he first faced Ben Grieve. After two balls and a foul, Grieve hit a fly ball to center field and Hancock had retired his first batter. Jason Conti followed and grounded out to third as did Aubrey Huff and Hancock's first outing in the majors was over with a line of 1.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO. Six days later he came in on the ninth at the other end of a 7 - 1 blowout and retired the side on five pitches. On September 26, he made his first major league start against the Chicago White Sox. In 5 1/3 innings of work he gave up three runs, on five hits including a home run by Magglio Ordonez, but struck out six and walked two. The Red Sox offense was not able to help him out and he was tagged with the loss. After the season he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies on December 15 for Jeremy Giambi.

Back-and-forth to AAA[edit]

Hancock started the 2003 season with the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons of the International League. In 28 games (27 starts), he had a 10 - 9 record with a 3.86 ERA. His two shutouts tied for the 2003 International League lead and his 165 2/3 innings pitched was third in the league. He struck out 122, walked 46, gave up 147 hits and 14 home runs. He was the league's pitcher of the week three times. In the his last eight starts with the Barons, he went 5 - 0 with a 2.47 ERA to earn a promotion to the Major Leagues. In two games for the Philadelphia Phillies (both against the Atlanta Braves) he pitched in three innings. He struck out four, walked none and gave up just two hits and one earned run.

Hancock again started the season at Triple-A in 2004, with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He started 18 games, went 8 - 7 with a 4.01 ERA and a 65/21 K/BB ratio. On May 22, Hancock was called up to make a start against the San Diego Padres. He threw five innings. He gave up three earned runs, walked one, struck out none and had five hits allowed and left the game ahead 4 - 3, but the game was eventually lost 9 - 6. On June 3, he made another start against the Braves where he lasted just two innings giving up 6 earned runs on eight hits and was pegged with the loss. Hancock spent the rest on June and July with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In late July he was called back to Philadelphia and pitched an inning on both July 28 and 29.

Late on July 30, 2004, Hancock was traded along with Andy Machado to the Cincinnati Reds for Todd Jones and Brad Correll. The next morning, he was the winning pitcher (his first career MLB win) for the Reds in a completed game against the Houston Astros; it was a suspended game that began the day before while Hancock was still with the Phillies. He pitched in two more games in relief for the Reds before being moved into the starting rotation in the second week of August to replace Cory Lidle who had been sent to Philadelphia for three minor leaguers.

Over the rest of the season, Hancock started in nine games, winning three and losing one. In his first five appearances for the Reds he went 3 - 0, the longest winning streak of his career. He had an ERA of 4.33, slightly worse than league average, over this span. In 52 innings pitched, gave up 55 hits including 13 home runs, and struck out 30 while walking 23. His best performance came in his last start against the Chicago Cubs when he went eight innings, giving up two earned runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and two base-on-balls.

Injury problems[edit]

Hancock spent most of the 2005 season on the disabled list with a strained right groin, only making twenty-two appearances split between the Louisville Bats and the Reds. He began the regular season on the disabled list and in June he made four rehab appearances with Louisville, including three starts. However, he aggravated the injury during his only relief appearance on June 20, and did not pitch again until July 27. He made seven more rehab appearances in July and August including five starts and came off the disabled list when rosters expanded on September 1. In his 11 minor league games he had a 1-2 record with a 5.93 ERA in 44 innings pitched while walking 17 and striking out 38.

In his first appearance for Cincinnati against the Atlanta Braves he came in in the fifth inning and went an inning with one hit and one strikeout. For the season, he had a 1.93 ERA in 11 relief appearances with 14 innings pitched, five strikeouts and a walk. During the winter he pitched for Magallanes Navigators in the Venezuelan Winter League and threw in five games (18 1/3 IP) with 11 strikeouts, a 0 - 1 win-loss record and a 8.84 ERA.

Success in St. Louis[edit]

Josh Hancock - press photo

On the first day of spring training 2006, Hancock was released by the Reds for being 17 pounds overweight, violating a clause in his contract. He promptly signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and would make the Major League roster to begin the season for the first time in his career. On opening day he made his Cardinals debut against the Philadelphia Phillies. He surrendered a double allowing a run to score but then retired the next two batters. Hancock had a 4.09 ERA in 77 innings - leading all Cardinals relievers - and 62 games. He walked 23 and struck out 50 while giving up 70 hits. During May he had an 8-game, 9 2/3 inning scoreless streak from May 1 to May 26. On July 9 versus the Astros, he recorded his first career save with a 1-2-3 twelfth inning in a 7 - 5 win.

In Game 3 of the Division Series against the San Diego Padres, Hancock came on in the fifth with runners on the corners. After striking out Mike Piazza, he walked Adrian Gonzalez, but then got out of the inning with a force out to third. In the following inning, he gave up one hit and a walk, but didn't allow a run keeping the score at 3 - 0; however, the Padres won 3 - 1.

In the NLCS versus the New York Mets, Hancock pitched in two forgettable games, giving up six earned runs in a third of an inning. In Game 2, he came on in the sixth of a 5 - 4 game with the Mets ahead. He struck out the first batter he faced but then a walk and a double knocked him out of the game with an earned run allowed. Two dates later, he had an even poorer outing, not even recording an out. Entering in the sixth, Hancock gave up two singles in a row, walked a batter and then had two runs scored upon him on a double. A walk then loaded the bases and he was pulled for Tyler Johnson. Johnson fared little better giving up a single and double allowing his three inherited runners to score, before retiring the side. Hancock was on the Cardinals' 25-man 2006 World Series roster, but did not make an appearance.

Untimely Death[edit]

Hancock again earned a spot in the Cardinals' bullpen in spring training of 2007 and was used regularly in April. He last pitched for the team on April 28, pitching three innings of relief in a 8-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs. The last batter he faced was Ryan Theriot, who grounded out to third base. Hancock also grounded out in his one at bat in the game. In eight games, he was 0 - 1 with a 3.55 ERA.

On Sunday, April 29, 2007, Hancock was killed when his sport utility vehicle struck the rear of a tow truck at 12:35 AM CDT. The truck was in the left lane assisting another vehicle that was involved in a prior accident. The Cardinals' scheduled game with the Chicago Cubs later that day was postponed due to his accident. Three days earlier, his teammates had been worried when they couldn't reach Hancock after he had overslept and had not shown up to the game on time, likening it to the events leading up to the death of former Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile in 2002. Hancock didn't answer until the "20th call", having thought the start time was later than it actually was. Hancock expected to be fined by the Cardinals after the incident. A police investigation report released to the media after Hancock's funeral indicated that his blood-alcohol level was at twice the legal limit and that he was speaking on a cellular phone at the time of the crash; a small amount of marijuana was also found in his vehicle.

Hancock's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the restaurant operated by Mike Shannon claiming that the restaurant shared responsibility for serving Hancock alcohol. The suit was dropped in late July.

Year-by-Year Playing Record[edit]

Year Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H BB SO
1998 GCL Red Sox Gulf Coast League 1 1 3.38 5 1 0 0 0 13.1 9 3 21
Lowell Spinners New York-Penn League 0 1 2.25 1 1 0 0 0 4 5 4 4
1999 Augusta GreenJackets South Atlantic League 6 8 3.50 25 25 0 0 0 139.2 154 46 106
2000 Sarasota Red Sox Florida State League 5 10 4.45 26 24 1 0 0 143.2 164 37 95
2001 Trenton Thunder Eastern League 8 6 3.65 24 24 0 0 0 130.2 138 37 119
2002 Trenton Thunder Eastern League 3 4 3.61 15 14 2 1 1 84.2 82 18 69
Pawtucket Red Sox International League 4 2 3.45 8 8 0 0 0 44.1 39 26 29
Boston Red Sox American League 0 1 3.68 3 1 0 0 0 7.1 5 2 6
2003 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons International League 10 9 3.86 28 27 2 2 0 165.2 147 46 122
Philadelphia Phillies National League 0 0 3.00 2 0 0 0 0 3 2 0 4
2004 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons International League 8 7 4.01 18 18 1 0 0 107.2 106 21 65
Philadelphia Phillies National League 0 1 9.00 4 2 0 0 0 9 13 3 5
Cincinnati Reds National League 5 1 4.45 12 9 0 0 0 54.2 60 25 31
2005 Louisville Bats International League 1 2 5.93 11 8 0 0 0 44 59 17 38
Cincinnati Reds National League 1 0 1.93 11 0 0 0 0 14 11 1 5
2006 St. Louis Cardinals National League 3 3 4.09 62 0 0 0 1 77 70 23 50
2007 St. Louis Cardinals National League 0 1 3.55 8 0 0 0 0 12.2 14 5 9


  • 2007 St. Louis Cardinals media guide

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