Philadelphia Phillies’ all-star catcher Darren Daulton died of brain cancer at age 55 in early August. Glioblastoma, the aggressive and common form of malignant brain tumor that Daulton had is now giving his team and disease researchers alike pause, the New York Times reports.
Daulton was at least the third Philadelphia Phillies baseball player of his era to die of glioblastoma in his mid-50s after 2003. The team lost reliever Tug McGraw at 59, infielder John Vukovich at 59, catcher Johnny Oates at 58 and pitcher Ken Brett at 55, reportedly, to glioblastoma. All of those players, like Daulton, played on the team’s old Veterans Field which had artificial turf and was torn down in 2004.
As of now, there is no known cause of the disease among the baseball players, but some are speculating whether the stadium’s turf was a factor.
The same pattern appeared in other former pro baseball players of Daulton’s era including Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter at 57, outfielder Bobby Murcer at 62, reliever Dan Quisenberry at 45 and manager Dick Howser at 51. They played on the same artificial turf in other Major League stadiums around the country.
“I’m concerned about it,” said Phillies’ bench coach Larry Bowa at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia event commemorating Daulton. Former Phillies pitcher Larry Andersen added, “It would be nice if there were some answer … But nobody knows anything. It’s frustrating.”
In 2013, when Daulton was originally diagnosed, The Philadelphia Inquirer analyzed 533 Phillies players who played within 33 seasons at Veterans Field. It was found that the incidence of brain cancer among Daulton, McGraw, Vukovich and Oates was three times higher than the rate of the general male population.
However, the Times noted, the 2013 study had a number of limitations. The researchers that the Times interviewed also said that because glioblastomas are not necessarily identical among the players, it is still possible that other variables beyond baseball caused the tumors.