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Exam Points to Kile's Heart

Baseball: Preliminary autopsy findings reveal "80-to-90% narrowing" of two coronary arteries probably led to death.

June 24, 2002|LANCE PUGMIRE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Cook County, Ill., medical examiner who reported Sunday that St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Darryl Kile probably died from blockage in his coronary arteries said Kile complained of shoulder pain and weakness the night before he was found dead, possible warning signs of heart problems.

Dr. Edmund Donoghue said preliminary findings during the autopsy revealed "80-to-90% narrowing of two of the three branches of the coronary artery," which probably resulted in an erratic heartbeat that caused Kile to die. Donoghue also reported Kile's heart was nearly 25% larger than normal.

Kile, 33, was found dead Saturday in the Cardinals' downtown Chicago hotel, forcing a postponement of the scheduled afternoon game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Cardinals and Cubs played Sunday night, with rookie Jason Simontacchi starting in place of scheduled starter Kile in an 8-3 loss.

Donoghue said he expected to file a final autopsy report in four to six weeks after studying toxicology results. Donoghue said he issued a death certificate, although he ordered further tests after learning that marijuana was found in Kile's 11th-floor room at the Westin Michigan Avenue hotel.

"I want to make it clear that marijuana had nothing to do with this death," Donoghue told a reporter for Major League Baseball's Web site, MLB.com.

Joe Krause, an investigator in the Cook County medical examiner's office, said Sunday night that medical examiner investigator Tim Doe discovered the marijuana in Kile's room.

Officer JoAnn Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Chicago police, said: "No one in our department found evidence of marijuana in that room. That's coming from the medical examiner."

Donoghue gave no indication Sunday that any drugs or illegal substances were involved in Kile's death. But he said information from Kile's brother, Daniel, was compelling. Daniel Kile reported to Donoghue that Darryl Kile said his shoulder was hurting and that he felt weak during their dinner Friday night.

"For a guy who was a pitcher in the major leagues, [the weakness] was an unusual symptom," Donoghue said.

Darryl Kile's condition, commonly known as hardening of the arteries, could have been predisposed. His father, David, died at age 44 after a heart attack.

"[That] pointed us in the right direction," Donoghue said. Kile's right coronary artery and the left interior descending artery both were blocked by 80 to 90%, Donoghue said. Additionally, Kile's heart weighed 552 grams.

"For his weight, a normal heart would have been 450 grams," Donoghue said. The autopsy revealed no damage to the heart, leading Donoghue to believe a fatal disturbance to the heart rhythm, arrhythmia, was the cause of death.

Detecting heart problems can be difficult, medical experts said. General examinations and even such tests as EKGs cannot identify them. Only angiograms and special stress tests using radioactive dyes injected into the bloodstream are effective, doctors said. Cardinal spokesman Brad Hainje said Kile had a physical examination during spring training but Hainje said he did not know whether Kile had a stress test or angiogram.

Dr. Jim Loomis, the Cardinals' assistant team physician, said Saturday that the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Kile had no known health problems and was not on medication.

Cardinal players, coaches and executives held a 30-minute memorial service for Kile at the team hotel Sunday.

Kile's wife, Flynn, spoke to the players afterward, encouraging them to play the game, and many Cardinals shared their memories of the 12-year major leaguer who was a three-time All-Star and won 20 games in 2000. Kile, a Garden Grove native, played baseball at Norco High and Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga.

The Cardinals voted Saturday to resume playing Sunday in honor of Kile, a fierce competitor who never spent time on the disabled list.

"It's important for us to play, and it's important for us to play [Sunday]," Cardinal Manager Tony La Russa said. "That's what he did his whole career: take his turn."

Sean Severns, the current Citrus College baseball coach who was an assistant coach at Chaffey when Kile attended the junior college in 1987-88, said Kile's strong will to win was evident even before he became a professional.

"I'll always remember a playoff game against L.A. Harbor when Darryl got drilled on the shin by a line drive in the sixth inning," Severns said. "Any other guy would have walked right off the mound and called it a day. Darryl insisted he stay in and he finished the game. We won."

In Kile's final start, Tuesday against the Angels, he pitched the Cardinals into first place in the National League Central Division.

Sunday night's nationally televised game at Wrigley Field was void of any stadium music except the national anthem, which was preceded by a moment of silence for Kile.

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