Retired Phillies Players Are Getting Brain Cancer At An Alarming Rate, And Nobody Knows Why
Earlier this month Philadelphia Phillies great Darren Daulton passed away at the age of 55 after a four-year battle with brain cancer. A three-time All-Star who won the 1992 Silver Slugger Award, Daulton was a key player on the magical 1993 team that went from worst to first and fell just two wins shy of a World Series title.
Glioblastoma, the type of brain cancer that killed Daulton, is the most frequently diagnosed type of brain cancer. However, according to a shocking report from the New York Times, Major League Baseball players from the 80s and early 90s are getting the disease at a higher rate than the general population. And Phillies players who played in the old Veterans Stadium appear to be affected more than anyone else.
At least three other Phillies who played multiple seasons at the Vet have died from glioblastoma since 2003, including Tug McGraw at age 59, John Vukovich at 59, and Johnny Oates at 58. Ken Brett, who spent one season with the Phillies, died from brain cancer that some reports identified as glioblastoma at the age of 55.
Some people think these deaths may have something to do with chemicals used in earlier forms of AstroTurf, or some other chemicals present in Veterans Stadium.
An informal study conducted by the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2013 analyzed 533 Phillies who played at Veterans Stadium between 1971 and 2003. It found Phillies players were diagnosed with glioblastoma at three times the rate of the general population. However, there does not appear to be a higher rate of glioblastoma in Philadelphia Eagles players from the same era, and they also played at Veteran stadium.
In the end, we may never really know what’s going on. Experts say cancer clusters are extremely difficult to prove.
Dr. Henry Friedman, a neuro-oncologist at Duke University, says he can’t say that there is no correlation between baseball and brain tumors, but there’s not enough data “by a long shot” to prove such a correlation.
Melissa L. Bondy, a brain tumor epidemiologist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, expressed a similar opinion. She says that the deaths of Daulton and other former ballplayers seems “to be beyond a coincidence,” but we can’t know for sure without more research.