Medical examiner rules Kennedy died of heart disease

Updated: January 15, 2008, 2:06 PM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- Major league pitcher Joe Kennedy was afflicted with a condition that caused his heart to suddenly stop beating at his in-laws' home in November, when he collapsed and later died.

Joe Kennedy


LHP -- 2001-07
2001-03 Tampa Bay
2004-05 Colorado
2005-07 Oakland
2007 Arizona
2007 Toronto

Career Stats
222 43 61 335 558 4.79

A final report on the 28-year-old player's death on Nov. 23 has not been issued. But an autopsy found he had hypertensive heart disease, a condition that hardens the heart's walls and can cause it to stop beating, said Dr. Vernard Adams, the Hillsborough County medical examiner.

He said the left-hander also had myxoid valvular disease, a condition that affects the way blood flows through a valve that separates the upper and lower chambers on the heart's left side. Both conditions can lead to a higher risk of cardiac arrest.

Adams said medical records indicated that Kennedy had some elevated blood pressure readings and had an electrocardiogram, but those tests would not necessarily reveal either condition.

Hypertensive heart disease "is very common in the general population," Adams said, but "not common in this age group."

Kennedy was a journeyman pitcher who played seven years in the majors and played for three teams during the 2007 season. He had a 43-61 career record with 4.79 ERA in 222 appearances.

He appeared in 27 games with the Oakland Athletics before being released and pitching briefly for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He ended the season with the Toronto Blue Jays, who said they intended to bring him back next season.

Athletics team physician Dr. Allan Pont told the San Francisco Chronicle that Kennedy had a family history of heart disease and the pitcher underwent numerous tests. "There were no abnormalities to suggest anything wrong with his heart," Pont told the Chronicle.

A team spokesman did not return a phone message from The Associated Press. A Blue Jays spokesman told the AP he would check with the team's medical staff about any testing or treatment Kennedy may have received.

Kennedy and his family, including a 1-year-old son, lived in the Denver area and had just bought a new house at the time of this death. He was visiting his in-laws in Brandon, a suburb east of Tampa, and was supposed to have attend a wedding the day he died.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press