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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Investigation Links Astroturf to Deaths of Six Former Phillies

  • An investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer found dangerous chemicals in the astroturf of the now-demolished Veterans Stadium.
  • Six Phillies who played on that turf died of a rare and aggressive brain cancer.
A view of Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia during the Phillies final home game on , September 28, 2003.
Paul Altobelli

A stunning investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer connects the astroturf at Veterans Stadium, the Philadelphia Phillies’ former home, and the deaths of six retired MLB players.

The players – Tug McGraw, Darren Daulton, John Vukovich, John Oates, Ken Brett, and David West – all played for the Phillies and all died of the aggressive brain cancer glioblastoma before the age of 60. 

The Inquirer found dangerous “forever chemicals” in the turf, which was produced by Monsanto. 

The team used the turf from 1977 to 2001, before switching to a surface called NexTurf. In 1982, the team sold pieces of it in sealed 4-by-4 inch bags. The Inquirer purchased four of those on eBay following West’s death in 2022 at age 57.

Samples analyzed by two separate labs found 16 types of dangerous chemicals in the turf. They are referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down and can last in the human body for years.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, Jay Glazer of Fox, and Adam Schefter of ESPN.

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These chemicals have been connected to kidney and testicular cancer, among other maladies, and the brain cancer rate among the 532 Phillies who played at Veterans Stadium from 1971 to 2003 is around triple the average rate of adult men.

“We know that the liver is affected. We know that the kidneys are affected. We know the testicles are affected,” Graham Peaslee, a physicist at the University of Notre Dame, told the Inquirer. “But nobody’s ever done the study to see if the brain is affected, because glioblastoma is such a rare disease.”

Veterans Stadium was demolished in 2004.

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