Did The Vet Give Dutch Cancer?

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Don’t worry, that shade of green is totally natural!

It was only a matter of time before someone tried to connect brain cancer to playing at Veterans Stadium.

Tom Avril of the Inquirer:

Tug McGraw. John Vukovich. Johnny Oates. And now Darren Daulton.

All four played for the Phillies at Veterans Stadium, and all four developed brain cancer. Is there a connection?

The analysis then compared the rate of Phillies’ brain cancers over that period [1971-2003] with the rate of similar cancers in the adult male population, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and a 2011 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The national rate was 9.8 cases per 100,000 adult males per year, while the rate in the former Phillies was 30.1 cases per 100,000 – about 3.1 times as high. The national count included various kinds of glioma, such as glioblastoma – the aggressive form of cancer that struck all four former Phillies.

The theories, some of which are not overtly presented by Avril, are that perhaps Veterans Stadium’s turf, which may have contained lead, caused cancer… or that it was asbestos… or steroids… or the fact that the corridors of The Vet made sewers look inhabitable. No one really knows.

Avril points out that, statistically, the sample size is too small to get an accurate reading, and that other factors, age and length of service (playing time in The Vet) among them, skew the results one way or the other.

Plus there’s that issue of the subjects. Some of those players had bad habits… and I’m just talking about the ones we know. And how many times did, say, Darren Daulton have his skin pierced by X-rays? Quite a few.

The best argument is the one about the turf. As a Philly.com commenter pointed out, a letter to the editor that ran in the Inquirer 2005 built the case that in warm temperature digits – you know, the ones in which baseball is played – synthetic turf releases a cancer-causing dioxin:

I’d start with the Astro Turf. According to the U.S. patent office, Astro Turf is composed of many ingredients, one of which is polyvinyl chloride, a plastic that when exposed to temperatures of 86 degrees or more breaks down into a dioxin.

If inhaled on a consistent basis, and if you have a susceptibility factor, it could eventually lead to angiosarcoma in the brain and or liver. Throw in a stadium where this heavier-than-air byproduct has no place to travel, and this might be an item to examine.

Maybe so. In fact, everyone’s favorite humanity-destroyer, Monsanto, makers of seeds, pesticides and other synthetic things, produced the original Astro Turf in Houston— the same kind that served as a rock-hard playing surface on South Broad. That’s what Dutch et al. played on.

But recent discussion surrounding artificial turf and cancer has focused on newer versions, the so-called Nex Turf, which wasn’t put in place at The Vet until 2001.

If you’ve ever stood or played on a Nex Turf-style field, you’re likely well aware of the little rubber pellets – which look like dirt – that serve as the cushiony foundation. They save your knees.. but they may also cause cancer: [UCONN Health]

Every new expanse of artificial turf contains plastic grass and about 120 tons of finely chopped tires that emit a small amount of toxic, cancer-causing, mutation-triggering chemicals and metals.

The layer of rubber “crumbs” makes the surface softer and more forgiving. It also gives off dozens of compounds that have not been studied or assessed for safety in the United States.

It’s those rubber “crumbs” at the heart of most current debates (at least the ones available to a quick Google search). Dutch, Tug, Vuk and Oates played on the older stuff, the stuff that’s not used anymore. As such, research will focus on newer iterations of turf, meaning we may never get a definitive answer about the alleged cancer-causing effects of that concrete carpet at The Vet.

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36 Responses

  1. It is odd that all four of those guys have had the same rare type of cancer, and I think it’s worth studying whether or not there is any connection to the stadium, steroids, etc. It reminds me of all those Marines from Camp Lejeune who have developed breast cancer at extremely high rates but no one has been able to pinpoint a cause. Anyone know if there are any Eagles players from the same era who have had glioblastoma?

    1. I don’t think the Eagles would have the same exposure. They only played once a week, and except for possibly the first 2 or 3 games of the year the temperature didnt go over 86 degrees. Would be interesting to know though. Maybe see if some of the grounds crew from back then had glioblastoma.

      1. Good point. I think you’re right in that the grounds crew is much more likely to be suffering from this if indeed the turf is the cause, which at this point is anyone’s guess, but it’s an interesting theory nonetheless.

  2. Studies show that doing bumps of blow off a set of fake tits behind a Florida Hooters while communing with future aliens may cause you to be confused with Darren Daulton.

  3. Weird coincidence, but I doubt there is much correlation…not to say it’s impossible but I would think if it were the root cause, there would be an alarmingly higher number of cases not just among players but among former Vet season ticket holders.

    1. Not to mention the grounds crew, concessions staff and anyone else who worked daily at the Vet during baseball season. Players were only there for a short period of time, some of those workers might’ve been there for decades. While there might not be a solid connection between the Vet and cancers Dutch, Tug and Vuke contracted, it’s certainly a disturbing one.

      1. Being as temps rarely hit 85-degrees during the football season and only 8 games a year were played at the Vet it is very unlikely that the turf impacted Eagles players. However, temps often hit 85 degrees in baseball games and 81 games a year are played. Therefore. I think it’s very unusual and very suspect that all four of these players developed such a rare form of brain cancer. This does not mean that if you played ball at the vet, you will get brain cancer. It seems you are more likely than the general public to get it. As for concession workers, security, and grounds crew, there was no study on them. However, the article does mention that a writer died of cancer in 1993 but it was not determined what type of cancer. I would imagine that if there is a strong connection between turfs and increased cancer-causing agents, MLB and the NFL will do its best to squash that connection. Between head injuries in the NFL and steroids in MLB, these leagues already have shot themselves enough in the foot.

  4. There is a 5th Player , Ken Brett, George Brett’s brother, who also died of the same Brain Cancer. He played for the Phillies in 1973.

  5. Polonium 210 in Tobacco:
    Association Researchers say that the interdiction of cellular apoptosis by Nicotine, which prolongs mutated/damaged cells lives further (apoptosis insures longevity by causing damaged cells to die and replace with new regenerated cells, in the body), plus the long term consequences of Polonium 210 from the Tobacco plants, which provide over 75 mRads of Radiation Per Day (that’s the same as between 3 and 50 Chest-X-Rays will give you, every Pack of Cigarettes you smoke) applied directly to the Lungs, and the resulting damage to your Lungs, prolonged by the Nicotine, lead to virtually ALL Lung Cancers among Smokers today. Changing Tobacco growing methods to eliminate the Polonium-210 is an ABSOLUTE MUST, FIRST STEP and WILL OVER TIME ELIMINATE ALL THESE RESULTING LUNG TUMORS/CANCERS.. The ACSA seeks any and all financial and other help in achieving this end by appropriate scientific means. Call us at 908-931-1390 during normal business hours or email us at info@acsa2000.net if you wish to contribute or otherwise make a difference.
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    Lives could be saved by simply changing fertilizers, they say… Almost 95% of the Lung Cancer caused by Cigarettes are allegedly the result of using calcium phosphate fertilizer to grow the Tobacco. The resulting Cigarettes bearing a combination of local Radon gasses and radioactive Polonium from the Tobacco leaves deposit a small dose of radioactive isotopes directly into a smoker’s lungs as they smoke (or breath smoke laden air)! For the “pack-a-day” smoker, it has been alleged that this dose would be the same as if you were forced to have between 300 and 8000 Chest X-Rays a year! If this startling fact be true, then it appears that your Lungs could literally be converted into a toxic, irradiated Nuclear Dump by the majority of today’s commercially grown and factory manufactured Cigarettes!

  6. Listen, when quoting statistics it’s quite necessary to also make a note that in this very small sample size (number of Phillies players) the data is kind of useless.

    I’d say that the one thing that raises my suspicion is the fact that all the players involved came down with the same form of the disease. The disease form should be tracked to it’s source be it turf or some kind of magic milkshake the players were drinking / taking then.

  7. Is the Vet the only stadium that ever used Astroturf? Is there a rash of brain cancers from former Pirates, Reds or Astros players too? Maybe decades of horrible baseball lead to brain cancer instead

  8. So we are middle of the way through the summer and Kyle has yet to schedule our golf tournament. Maybe we should have a little happy hour first so everybody can get to know eachother. Kyle turn this site into the CHIVE, we want more half naked chicks!

    1. Golf tourney should be down the shore and we get to crash at his parents’ pad in Sea Isle!! As for the tourney itself, I’m hiring KITMIACRS to be my caddie. I’m sure that derelict could use the extra bucks now that his ass is unemployed!!!!

  9. If the little pellets in the nexturf are rubber, and the original crap was basically plastic, it all came from the same place, which would be oil refinery byproducts. All of the hydrocarbons that are separated out to leave gasoline are used to make other things, including plastic and rubber. Many of them are known carcinogens.

  10. I’d like to know where the reporter got the 30.1 out of 100,000 stat from. Seems like it’s pulled out of thin air or extrapolated over a ridiculous multiplier.

  11. ok just read the article to see how the article’s author calculated that rate and just as I thought it’s complete bullshit. There’s just as much of a connection to a time period (the 70’s) with the rare brain cancer as there is with playing at the vet. The more obvious explanation is that it’s just statistical noise. Leaps could also be made to look at supplements that the players were using. To say the surface caused rare brain cancers is ridiculous.

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