Since Darren Daulton died because of brain cancer Aug. 6, heartfelt tributes have honored the way he led a raucous Philadelphia Phillies team to the World Series in 1993.
And unanswered questions have surfaced about the way he died.
Daulton and several prominent contemporaries in baseball -- including at least three other Phillies who played at Veterans Stadium, the team's home from 1971-2003 -- have died of glioblastoma, according to news media accounts. It is considered the most aggressive and frequently diagnosed form of malignant brain tumor.
Researchers who have examined the baseball cases for years say there is insufficient evidence to determine whether they represent anything more than coincidence. Possible cancer clusters are notoriously hard to prove. Most of the time, upon rigorous examination, no cause can be identified and the cases are considered random.
"There is almost never an explanation for them," said Timothy Rebbeck, a cancer epidemiologist at Harvard and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who has studied the Phillies cases.
Still, Phillies from that era are curious, some even unnerved, about whether there is any connection between brain cancer and baseball. In particular, they wonder if there is any association with Veterans Stadium, which was built on marshland and was demolished in 2004.
"I'm concerned about it," said Larry Bowa, the Phillies' bench coach, who joined the team as a player in 1970 and has spent much of his professional career in Philadelphia as a shortstop, manager and coach. "It raises your eyebrows, no question. It's sort of scary."
Larry Andersen, who pitched for Philadelphia in the 1983 and 1993 World Series and is now a radio commentator for the team, said: "You can't help but think about it. It would be nice if there were some answers, if nothing else for going forward. But nobody knows anything. It's frustrating."
Other former Phillies who also reportedly died of glioblastoma since 2003 were reliever Tug McGraw at age 59, infielder John Vukovich at 59 and catcher Johnny Oates at 58. Ken Brett, a pitcher who played in Veterans Stadium for one season, died at 55 of a brain cancer that has been identified in some news accounts as glioblastoma.
That same type of cancer is reported to have killed other notable major league players, as well as a manager, from the same era: Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter at 57, outfielder Bobby Murcer at 62, reliever Dan Quisenberry at 45 and manager Dick Howser at 51.
Brett, Quisenberry and Howser spent part of their careers in Kansas City, where the baseball park at that time -- like Veterans Stadium -- had artificial turf. Some former Phillies wonder whether chemicals in those early versions of synthetic turf could have increased the risk of brain cancer, but scientists say they know of no research that supports that theory.
Dr. Cory M. Franklin, a Chicago internist who has written about the cancer cases in baseball, said Major League Baseball and the players union should enlist epidemiologists and statisticians to examine whether the malignancies were workplace related. He also said that they should create an extensive registry of players and their causes of death.
"I think they should be a little more sensitive to this problem," Franklin said. "There may be more problems like it."
Major League Baseball declined to make Dr. Gary A. Green, its medical director, available for an interview. The players union also declined to comment.
Sports on 08/15/2017
Print Headline: Daulton's death leads to theories