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Kile's autopsy points to heart

CHICAGO — CHICAGO - St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile complained of shoulder pain and weakness the night before he died, possible warning signs that he had heart problems, officials said yesterday.

An autopsy on Kile, 33, revealed an 80 to 90 percent narrowing of two of his three coronary arteries, and that his heart was nearly 25 percent larger than normal, said Dr. Edmund Donoghue, the Cook County, Ill., medical examiner.

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Donoghue said he believed Kile's condition, known as coronary atheroscleroris or hardening of the arteries, brought on an erratic heartbeat that caused his death. A final determination will not be made until further tests are completed, he said.

Though Donoghue said Chicago police found a substance believed to be marijuana in Kile's downtown hotel room, he said "marijuana had nothing to do with his death." Donoghue said he did not expect a final autopsy report for four to six weeks.

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Asked about Donoghue's mention of marijuana, Chicago police spokeswoman Officer JoAnn Taylor said: "Our reports show that there is no evidence of narcotics in the room. If there was some contraband, the police would not hold back on that. We'd have to inventory that."

A spokesman for the Cardinals, in town to play the Cubs at Wrigley Field, said the team had not been notified either of the autopsy results or "any toxicology aspects of it."

Kile was found dead Saturday in his 11th-floor hotel room after he failed to show up for St. Louis' game against the Cubs. The night before, he had gone to dinner with his brother, Daniel.

Donoghue said Daniel Kile told him that Darryl Kile said his shoulder was hurting and that he felt weak.

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

The medical examiner said he also suspected heart problems after he learned that Kile's father died after suffering a heart attack in his mid-40s. "It pointed us in the right direction," he said.

The right coronary artery and the left interior descending artery were blocked by 80 to 90 percent, Donoghue said. Such blockages occur when fatty deposits accumulate inside the arteries.

The autopsy revealed no damage to the heart, leading Donoghue to believe arrhythmia, or an erratic heartbeat, was the cause of death.

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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.

Cardinals spokesman Brad Hainje said Kile had a physical examination during spring training but did not know whether he had a stress test or angiogram.

He said he was not aware of Kile complaining of chest pains.

But the pitcher was known for stoicism, insisting on pitching after his father's death and once refusing to come out of a game after being hit in the face by a line drive.

"We always called Darryl 'John Wayne' because he was such a durable player, never missing a start due to injury," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

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

Though Major League Baseball postponed Saturday's game because of Kile's death, the Cubs and Cardinals met as scheduled last night at Wrigley Field. Kile had been scheduled to pitch that game. Their emotional burden obvious, the Cardinals lacked the concentration that helped them take over first place in the National League Central, committing two errors and losing, 8-3.

Though there was some talk of postponing the game out of respect for Kile, the Cardinals voted unanimously to play in his honor. His wife, Flynn, agreed when she met with the Cardinals after a 30-minute memorial service at the team hotel yesterday morning.

"Basically she said she thought that Darryl would want them to play, also. And that certainly helped reinforce what their decision was," said Walt Jocketty, the Cardinals general manager.

"There isn't anything you go through that gets you ready for what happened here [Saturday]," La Russa said yesterday before the game. "And I hope nobody for years and years and years in any sport has to go through it.

"You go through it in private life, and it's really difficult," added La Russa, who lost his father two months ago. "But when you do it like we do it, one of the guys, it's a different burden."

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There was a moment of silence before the game, and all of the Cubs and Cardinals stood in front of their dugouts, heads bowed.

The Cardinals wore small, black patches with "57" on their left sleeves, and two of Kile's jerseys hung on either side of the dugout door leading into the clubhouse.

The U.S. flag at Wrigley Field was at half-staff, and the colorful pennants of the NL teams that usually fly above the scoreboard were taken down.

There was no music at the park except for the national anthem. Even the traditional singing of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" was canceled, replaced by a mournful organ version of the song.

Shia Kapos and Michael Hirsley are reporters for the Chicago Tribune. The Associated Press contributed to this article.


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