Cocaine killed Darrell Porter, medical examiner says of drug test

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)--In a much-hoped-against development, drug test results have shown cocaine use to be the cause of Darrell Porter's death Aug. 5.

Porter, 50, the 1982 World Series Most Valuable Player who later became known for overcoming drug abuse, died accidentally from the "toxic effects of cocaine," a Kansas City-area medical examiner announced Aug. 12 in a news conference.

"Drug testing from samples of blood obtained from the autopsy reveal evidence that Mr. Porter used cocaine shortly before his death," Jackson County (Mo.) medical examiner Thomas Young recounted.

Porter's family released a statement through one of the baseball player's former teammates, Jerry Terrell, stating, "For 22 years, Darrell remained sober. The fact that he failed shows the evil of drugs and the power of the disease. His death is now an even stronger case against the drugs that are prevalent in our society.... Right now we are grieving the loss of someone we loved very much. Please pray for us!"

Porter is survived by his wife Deanne and three children, Lindsey, 20, Jeff, 18, and Ryan, 14. The family had joined the Kansas City-area First Baptist Church, Blue Springs, Mo., church in recent years.

Ted Stone, a drug abuse speaker and author who has spoken in Southern Baptist churches across the country, who had never met Porter, told Baptist Press Aug. 13 that Christians "can certainly develop drug problems," and some might mistakenly believe they can experiment with drugs without any lasting consequence.

"Darrell Porter's recent tragic death is a reminder to all of us of just how dangerous even a casual venture into the drug world can be," said Stone, of Durham, N.C., himself a former drug addict.

"For those of us who have survived and overcome our past involvements in drug abuse, this tragedy should be a graphic reminder that a return to that sad world must never be an option."

Staying clear of drugs, Stone said, entails "a serious dependence on the Lord" of greater appeal than drugs. "The more we get hooked into doing God's will rather than our will, the better our chance for permanent recovery," he said. "It's when we start depending on ourselves that we fall."

Stone added, "For those overcomers who have publicly sounded the alarm about the dangers of drug abuse, this event should remind us that we stand on pedestals, and the world depends on us for renewed examples of lifestyles free from drug abuse. Someone, somewhere trusts in each of us, and we must be true to that trust."

Young, in his news conference about the drug test results, recounted that Porter's blood had a level of cocaine "consistent with recreational use" but not so "abnormally high" as to be described an overdose. Young said Porter apparently was killed by a cocaine-caused condition, "excited delirium," which the medical examiner described as involving high body temperatures and "agitated, bizarre" behavior and capable of stopping a person's heart. In Porter's case, Young said, the excited delirium was worsened by an enlarged heart and high heat and humidity Aug. 5.

Young said Porter evidenced "not the usual driving of someone thinking clearly" when he drove off a gravel road in a park "at a fairly good rate of speed" and hit a tree stump, then a second tree stump where his car became lodged. Porter didn't use his cell phone to call for help. He apparently wandered to the Missouri River alongside the park and then back to his car where Young said Porter died with his T-shirt "partially pulled off and around his neck."

Young said it was not clear whether Porter had used cocaine over an extended period of time or just when he used the dose that took his life.

Porter had taken the summer off from his work with a company that promotes sportsmanship, Enjoy the Game, the Kansas City Star reported. The company's president, Bill Stutz, said Porter had been working through some unspecified personal issues but recently gave the impression that "it was all taken care of." Porter was the two-year-old company's vice president of communications.

In addition to boosting the St. Louis Cardinals to the 1982 World Series title and being named MVP, Porter won the same honor in the league championship series that year. During a 17-year major league career, Porter played in two other World Series, one with the Cardinals and one with the Kansas City Royals, and was a two-time All Star.

He checked himself into an Arizona drug rehab center in 1980 and later wrote a book, "Snap Me Perfect! The Darrell Porter Story," about overcoming drug abuse with the help of a return to his boyhood faith in Christ. He told of how his drug problems, even after his rehab, had sapped his baseball career and of having only taken a sip of beer before breaking into professional baseball in 1970.

Kansas City Star sports columnist Joe Posnanski wrote on Aug. 13, "We wanted to believe. ... We want to believe that, with willpower and hope, anything is possible. We wanted to believe Darrell Porter when he said he quit cocaine. And that's why Monday's news landed like a kick to the stomach."

Describing Porter as "a good man," Posnanski recounted, "He touched so many people through baseball, through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, through his writing. The end doesn't diminish any of that. But the end does tell the saddest story, the one of a man who found God, worked with children, loved to fish, cherished his family but still could not summon the power to beat cocaine.

"People always underestimate cocaine," Posnanski wrote. "Scientists have done experiments with laboratory animals and found that they would press a metal bar 10,000 times for one shot of cocaine. Ten thousand times."


Download Story