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Monday, August 12
Updated: August 13, 8:09 AM ET
Doctor says Porter did not die of an overdose

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Much of Darrell Porter's life after baseball was filled with delivering anti-drug messages.

The former major league catcher's death might have been the most powerful -- and poignant -- of all.

Porter, who beat alcohol and drug addictions during his playing days, had cocaine in his system when he died last week, according to autopsy results released Monday.

"If this drug can kill someone as tough as Darrell Porter, it's too powerful to mess around with," said Paul Splittorff, a former teammate of Porter's with the Kansas City Royals.

"Let's hope that is how people remember the circumstances of his death, because you don't want kids questioning what he was trying to tell them," Splittorff said. "You don't want that lost, just because it was too powerful for even Darrell to resist. That should be the message: Don't even start."

Porter, 50, who caught for four major league teams and was the MVP of the 1982 World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals, was found dead Aug. 5 next to his car in a park.

Jackson County medical examiner Dr. Thomas Young said Porter had a level of cocaine in his system consistent with recreational use. He would not be more specific, and said it was unclear when Porter had taken the drug.

Porter did not die of an overdose, Young said, but of a condition called "excited delirium," which causes excessive body temperature, "behavior that is agitated, bizarre and potentially violent," and stopped Porter's heart.

Young said heat exposure and an enlarged heart, which is common among drug users or those with high cholesterol, contributed to Porter's death.

In a statement issued Monday night, Porter's family also called the finding a grim reminder of the damage drugs can do.

"For 22 years, Darrell remained sober," the statement, read at Kauffman Stadium by friend and former Royals teammate Jerry Terrell, stated in part. "The fact that he failed shows the evil of drugs and the power of the disease."

Porter worked for Enjoy the Game, a company that promotes sportsmanship. His boss, Bill Stutz, said Porter had taken the summer off to work out family issues.

"I saw him in July and thought it was taken care of," Stutz said. "I thought he looked himself again."

Police said Porter's car went off a road and got caught on a tree stump in La Benite Park in Sugar Creek, a Kansas City suburb. He got out of the car, walked to the nearby Missouri River and then back to his car.

Sugar Creek police Lt. Glen Newton said Porter had left a note at home that he planned to go to the park to read and listen to music.

Authorities had initially speculated that he overheated while trying to push the car off the stump in high heat and humidity. But there was no evidence to indicate that he tried to move the car, Young said.

Porter broke into the majors in 1971 with the Milwaukee Brewers, who traded him to the Royals after the 1976 season. He was an All-Star twice in his four years with Kansas City.

But Porter began abusing cocaine, Quaaludes, marijuana, and alcohol.

Porter, who lived in the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit, left spring training in 1980 and entered a drug rehabilitation clinic. He later chronicled his fight with addiction and recovery from it in a 1984 book, "Snap Me Perfect! The Darrell Porter Story."

Newton said the case was closed and there would be no investigation into how Porter obtained the cocaine.

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