David West is the Sixth Former Phillie Since 2003 to Die From Brain Cancer

photo credit: baseball card database

This weekend, the Phillies issued a statement on the passing of former player David West, which featured quotes from teammates and others within the organization.

Here’s the message in its entirety:

The Phillies, along with the rest of the baseball community, grieve the passing of former pitcher David West. West, who pitched for the Phillies for four years, including the 1993 pennant-winning season, was known as an incredibly generous teammate and friend with an unmatched sense of humor. Our thoughts are with David’s family, friends and everyone whose life he touched.

“It is with great sadness that I write this message about my roomie and best teammate ever. David West had the biggest heart to go with his huge personality. He was always there to give you a pat on the back when you were down, or a hilarious one-liner when things were going well. He was the ultimate teammate, but an even better friend. He will certainly be missed. Rest in peace, my friend.”

-Larry Andersen

“Another brother gone way too soon. My prayers go out to the family of David West. David was a great teammate and a funny human being. We don’t reach the World Series without him. RIP my brother.”

-John Kruk

“What a great friend and teammate David was. Just another member of the Phillies family we have lost way too early. Prayers to Westy’s family.”

-Mickey Morandini

“I’m not kidding when I tell you that Westy was literally this gentle giant who seemed to always have a smile on his face.  I had so much respect for David and how he went about his business on the mound. We don’t win in ’93 without his left arm out of the bullpen. However, the one thing that I will always remember is that even though I was a rookie in 1993, David never treated me as one. Even though I was only 23 years old, I felt like he always respected how I played and who I was as a person.  He even made an impression on my wife, Brooke, in that he would always say hello to her after games and ask how she was getting along with the craziness of baseball life. David will be missed.”

-Kevin Stocker

“My heart is broken with the loss of another one of my brothers. Rest in peace, Big Bird. My heart goes out to your family.”

-Milt Thompson

David West played in Philly from 1993 to 1996 and appeared in more than 70 games for the squad that went to the World Series. He finished that regular season with a 2.92 ERA over 86 innings, with a career-high 9.01 strikeouts-per-nine. West also played two playoff games that year.

When the Darren Daulton Foundation revealed West’s condition almost one year ago to the day, Phillies fans immediately connected his brain cancer to the health issues that affected teammates:

Think about that for a minute. Six former Phillies have died of brain cancer since 2003. It has to be more than a statistical anomaly.

But how do we prove that? Can we even execute any kind of investigation? Veterans Stadium was razed almost 20 years ago. There’s no going back and examining the turf or the conditions in which those baseball games were played. Unless fans kept portions of the turf as memorabilia, then we’re shit out luck in terms of going back and testing for carcinogens or something along those lines. The only thing we really can do otherwise is to pay attention to the health of Phillies alumni from various eras and scan for similarities in diagnosis.

One of the things to consider is that the Phillies played 81 games per season at the Vet. Eagles players were on the field eight times. That’s data worth noting if we’re going down this road and might explain why this is only happening to the baseball guys. And you think about all of the workers who were there day-in and day-out during the baseball season. Did they develop any kind of similar health issues over the years? It seems like the best way to proceed is to just gather as much data as we can get and see if the numbers push this thing beyond a “coincidence.”

Here’s a relevant nugget from Gabrielle Starr at Thatballsouttahere.com:

Unfortunately, the Vet was demolished in March 2004, and it’s hard to trace something back to a place that no longer exists. But while scientists spent years saying there was no official link between chemicals in AstroTurf and cancer, new lawsuits and law changes suggest otherwise. A report from January of this year noted that California’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit alleging that artificial turf manufacturers have not warned customers about “potentially dangerous toxins” in their products. Last summer, the University of Amsterdam released findings that the rubber granules release chemicals that can be harmful to humans and animals. As a result, the European Commission imposed stricter limits on eight compounds found in the material.

I just don’t know who leads that research or pays for it. Is there enough to justify a real investigation, limitations aside? And even then, would anybody find anything conclusive?

Hard to say. The whole thing is really sad.

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