View Full Version : Sox coach Tony Cloninger may have bladder cancer
03-12-03, 08:13 AM
Pitching coach Cloninger may have cancer
By Gordon Edes and Bob Hohler, Globe Staff, 3/12/2003
ORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox pitching coach Tony Cloninger is awaiting test results to confirm a preliminary diagnosis of bladder cancer, he said yesterday.
Cloninger, who has missed the last two exhibition games while undergoing tests in a hospital here, said tumors were discovered in his bladder.
''I saw a urologist this morning and he said he wouldn't know the test results for another five to seven days, but that it was probably cancer,'' said Cloninger yesterday.
''We'll go from there. I'm very optimistic I won't miss a beat. Depending on the treatment, I should be able to be there for most of the games. I'm ready to go tomorrow, but my doctor told me to use some common sense.''
After learning of the tumors Monday, Cloninger called Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, who three years ago was diagnosed with multiple myeloma -- a cancer of the blood plasma -- and left the team in September 2000 for a stem-cell transplant. Cloninger was the Yankees' bullpen coach at the time and served as pitching coach during Stottlemyre's absences. Stottlemyre has recovered and is back with the Yankees. Cloninger's wife, Betty, died from myeloma in 1994.
''I know what's involved,'' said Cloninger, 62, who said he will seek a second opinion before deciding on a course of treatment. He was encouraged, he said, that tests did not show any tumors in other vital organs.
He also spoke with manager Grady Little, who picked Cloninger to be his pitching coach last spring and has been a longtime friend. Both men live in North Carolina.
''Grady didn't know how to respond today,'' Cloninger said. ''I told him I'd be back quickly. He said, `Take care of Tony first.' I told him I had pitchers to take care of. I call Grady, he wants to talk about me, I want to talk about the pitchers.''
Cloninger then asked a reporter, ''How did Casey do?'' referring to Casey Fossum, the young lefthander who pitched against the Florida Marlins yesterday in Jupiter.
Cloninger said he decided to seek medical attention after discovering a significant amount of blood in his urine Sunday night after returning to the team hotel.
''I've been passing blood for about five weeks,'' he said. ''I first started having a problem back in August or September, but I thought it was just a urinary infection. Don't assume anything, I guess.''
Treatment for bladder cancer, according to information obtained from a urology website, depends on the stage of the disease, the type of cancer, and the patient's age and overall health. Options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy. Treatments are sometimes combined. In many cases, the chemotherapy can be done on an outpatient basis.
Asked about Cloninger's absence yesterday, Little said the pitching coach was undergoing tests but declined to elaborate. The Sox have a new bullpen coach, Euclides Rojas, who served as pitching coach in Cloninger's absence. Bob Kipper, who was bullpen coach last season and is pitching coach for Double A Portland, also has been in camp.
I wish Tony well in this, the greatest contest of his life.
Incidentally didn't he hit two grand slams in one game? Quite a feat for a pitcher.
03-12-03, 02:24 PM
Cloninger Has Cancer
March 12, 2003
By DAVID HEUSCHKEL, Courant Staff Writer
Tony Cloninger went to see a urologist Monday and the results were not good. Doctors told the Red Sox pitching coach he has cancer in his bladder.
Cloninger, who did not accompany the team for a second consecutive day Tuesday, hadn't been feeling well and became concerned when he began passing blood in his urine.
"The doctor said it looked treatable," Cloninger told The Courant. "I look at it this way, I've been through a lot in my life, this is another little mountain to climb. I feel good, I'm not ready to die and I've got a lot of living to do. I am not afraid of cancer. It's such a dreadful disease. I lost my wife in '94 to it, so I've been through all that. If something happens to me, I know where I'm going.
"I'm not scared, I'm concerned. I'm probably thinking more about those pitchers."
Cloninger, 62, said he is going to see another doctor later this week.
03-12-03, 04:25 PM
I am so sorry to read this news. Tony will be in my thoughts and prayers. :(
03-12-03, 10:46 PM
may tony have a speedy recovery...
Best Wishes for a speedy recovery.
03-13-03, 06:02 AM
I only thought that boxers passed blood in their urine, and then only after a fight.
I wish Tony the best, and a good recovery, even if it must take some time!!!
03-13-03, 11:58 PM
no doubt is a killer, if they operate and remover the bladder you walk around with a bag, bad news, lost my Father in 86 to that cancer.
Perhaps they can use other modalities to arrest the spread of the cancer
03-14-03, 09:44 AM
Work a welcome distraction
Awaiting results, Cloninger returns
By Bob Hohler, Globe Staff, 3/14/2003
FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Red Sox were scheduled to start work yesterday at City of Palms Park at 10 a.m. So Tony Cloninger kept his usual pace: He arrived at 6:15 a.m.
The Sox' pitching coach had not slept particularly well since doctors concluded after two days of probing and poking him that he has bladder cancer. He was coping with some lingering discomfort from the tests, and he was awaiting biopsy results to learn how aggressively he will need to be treated - and, once the specific type of cancer is identified, his prognosis.
But Cloninger was getting itchy after sitting out three days back at his hotel. Sure, it was fun watching an old western on the TV the night before with bullpen coach Euclides Rojas. And it was nice that Alan Embree knocked on his door to wish him well.
But Cloninger, 62, has found a little piece of heaven as the Sox pitching coach. A year to the day after he started the job, he explained on his first day back to work after he was blindsided by the cancer diagnosis that he has never been happier coaching, even when he served as pitching coach for the Yankees in 1993.
He indicated he feels fully accepted and respected by the Sox. ''This is what I've always wanted to do,'' he said in the Sox dugout after fielding a barrage of questions about his fate - questions no one yet could answer.
Sox manager Grady Little, perhaps Cloninger's closest friend in baseball, tried to persuade him to continue resting at his hotel. No dice. Eager to see how much Casey Fossum had progressed since his rocky start and watch Derek Lowe bounce back from a disappointing outing, Cloninger made his ritual predawn arrival.
''I've always said I'll retire when they tear the uniform off me,'' he said. ''That's kind of the way I feel now. I'm going to work through all of this. I may have to miss a day here or there, but I don't foresee missing any length of time. I'm confident I'll be able to carry on with my work.''
A bear of a man who set the major league record for RBIs in a game by a pitcher (9) when he hit two grand slams and knocked in another run for the Braves in 1966, Cloninger does not intend to shy from the challenge he faces. He said he expects to hear no later than Tuesday how treatable his form of cancer is.
''Am I scared? No, I'm not scared,'' he said. ''Am I scared of death? No, I feel like I have a lot to offer in life. But if something happens to me, I feel like I'm ready to go. I've always been a family person and a church person, and I think I have my priorities in order.''
He is acutely familiar with the rigors of fighting cancer from supporting his wife, Betty, during her unsuccessful struggle with multiple myeloma in 1994. And he has steeled himself for the experience by drawing inspiration from watching Yankee pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre battle the same disease that claimed Cloninger's wife. Cloninger said Stottlemyre received chemotherapy even while he was visiting the mound to coach Yankee pitchers.
''He's the bravest person I've ever seen,'' said Cloninger, the Yankee bullpen coach at the time. ''He's my hero.''
Cloninger considered working overtime on his first day back. After watching Lowe face the Twins in Fort Myers in the afternoon, he was eager to ride 130 miles with Little to Tampa to monitor Robert Person in his first start, in a night game against the Yankees.
''We're in the process of trying to get it in his mind that he's not going to both these games,'' Little said before the first one. ''I don't think we're going to allow it.''
They didn't. But they were tickled to have his company at least for one day. One after another, Sox players greeted Cloninger with hugs and promises to pray for him.
''I'm happy he's here,'' Lowe said. ''Hopefully in the next couple of days he'll receive some real good news. He's the most positive person in the world.''
The Sox were struck by Cloninger's quiet courage. ''It just lets you know how tough he is,'' Embree said. ''You can't even tell if he was hurting. I think it would have just drove him crazy not being able to come out. I think everybody that saw him today, it made them smile a little bit.''
Cloninger spent the morning on a back field working with his pitchers, including Fossum. Then he monitored Lowe and the relievers who succeeded him.
''Until they tell him he can't do it, he's going to do it,'' Embree said. ''That's just the way he is. And then he still might try to do it. He's a pretty strong man.''
Cloninger has yet to decide whether he will seek a second opinion in North Carolina - he lives 25 miles from the oncologist in Charlotte who treated his wife - or in Boston, where Sox medical director Bill Morgan is based. For now, he will continue working - and waiting.
''I've learned in life that you don't assume anything and that you're thankful for every day you have,'' he said. ''And when you run up against a mountain like this, you hit it and try to do the best you can.''
As happy as the Sox were to see Cloninger, there was no hiding their concern.
''It's hard to say it doesn't affect what goes on around here,'' Little said. ''It's in the back of everybody's mind, but Tony wants us to go on, just like he'll go on as long as he possibly can.''
This story ran on page D2 of the Boston Globe on 3/14/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
03-14-03, 10:59 AM
Cloninger goes back to work
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It wasn't even 48 hours after receiving a cancer diagnosis, and Tony Cloninger was back to work. At roughly 6:15 Thursday morning, the Red Sox pitching coach showed up at City of Palms Park, eager to start his day.
It likely won't be until early next week that Cloninger gets a concise report from the biopsy on the cancerous tumors that were found in his bladder. So he won't truly know what is ahead of him until then.
But instead of agonizing over that wait, Cloninger will sink himself into his job. He figures he might as well take control over the situations he can control.
Cloninger was so eager to return to work that he had thoughts about sitting in the dugout for Boston's 1 p.m. contest against the Twins, and then traveling to Tampa for the other half of the split-squad against the Yankees (7 p.m. start).
However, manager Grady Little urged Cloninger to skip the trip to Tampa and simply work the first game.
"We're in the process of trying to get it in his mind he's not going to both these games," Little said Thursday morning. "Tony is out here today, he wanted to be out here. Right now there's really no update until the results of that test come back. We don't have anything concrete."
Everyone in a Red Sox uniform can't help but be concerned for Cloninger until more results are known.
"It affects them," said Little. "It is in the back of everyone's mind. But Tony wants us to go on and we'll go on, just like he will, as long as he possibly can. Tony will do as much as he can until we get the results and [find out] what's next."
The presence of Cloninger made Thursday a more upbeat day for the Red Sox than Wednesday, when the news was first relayed to the players. He was in his typically upbeat mood, whether it was working with left-hander Casey Fossum in a morning side session or conducting a dugout press conference with reporters.
Cloninger, who missed games the last three days, was just glad to be back in uniform.
"They always say, 'When are you going to retire'," said the 62-year-old Cloninger. "I say, 'When they tear the uniform off'. That's kind of the way I feel now. I'm going to work, and I feel like I will be able to work and do my job through all this. I might have to miss a day here or there."
The only symptom Cloninger felt Thursday was fatigue. Otherwise, it felt like any other day at the ballpark.
"I feel good, I'm just a little tired from all the tests," said Cloninger. "I don't have any pain at all. There's a little discomfort from all the tests that they run, but other than that, I feel good."
One of Cloninger's top qualities as a pitching coach -- the power of positive thinking -- is the same one he will use to battle whatever cancer treatment is upcoming.
"I've learned in life that you don't assume everything and you're thankful for every day you have with your health and you're thankful for your job, you're thankful for your family," said Cloninger. "And you appreciate everything. When you run across a mountain like this, you hit it and try to do the best you can."
Cloninger lost his wife to cancer in 1994. And three seasons ago, when he was still the bullpen coach for the Yankees, he watched pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre battle multiple myeloma -- a form of bone marrow cancer.
Stottlemyre remains entrenched as Joe Torre's pitching coach, and Cloninger called him after learning his news.
Stottlemyre urged Cloninger to get as many opinions as he can. Cloninger plans on heeding that advice as soon as he gets the biopsy results.
"[Stottlemyre] would go to the mound and talk to pitchers during chemo treatments," said Cloninger. "He and I rode back and forth [to the ballpark] a lot there. He's the greatest person I've ever seen. He's my hero, I'll tell you that. He never complained."
Red Sox right-hander Derek Lowe got a similar feel from Cloninger on Thursday. Lowe didn't even know Cloninger was at the ballpark until he went out to warm up 20 minutes before the first pitch.
"He's so upbeat," said Lowe. "The first thing you do is ask him how he is. Then he says, 'Enough about me. Throw through the target, throw a lot of first pitch strikes'."
Cloninger's focus is bound to sway away from his pitchers at least for isolated moments while he waits to hear the biopsy results. But whatever the verdict is, Cloninger said he'll be ready.
"Am I scared? No, I'm not scared," Cloninger said. "I feel like I have a lot to offer in life. If something happens to me, I feel like I'm ready to go. I've always been a family person and a church person and I have my priorities in order."
For the next couple of days, work will be a high priority for Cloninger. With two weeks left in camp, the Red Sox have plenty of decisions to make regarding who will make the pitching staff.
As insignificant as that seems compared to Cloninger's plight, he isn't going to give his job anything less than a full effort.
"I feel good about our pitchers, our players, coaches, I really feel a closeness [with] all of them," Cloninger said. "My philosophy has always been, 'It's not how much I know, it's how much I care'. I care. I may hurt, I may get sick. I'm thankful for my job, I'm thankful for the chance to work with these young men. I feel like I've found a home in Boston."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Good luck to Tony. Very disheartening news.
Hope everything turns out alright for Tony Cloninger. :uhh:
03-19-03, 09:05 PM
redsox.com 3/19/03 (http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/mlb/news/mlb_news.jsp?ymd=20030319&content_id=224936&vkey=spt2003news&fext=.jsp)
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
03/19/2003 5:50 pm ET
Cloninger is optimistic
Tests confirm cancer, but pitching coach is upbeat
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox pitching coach Tony Cloninger received the results from the biopsy taken on his bladder and, as expected, he has cancer.
The good news, according to Cloninger, is that it appears to be confined in the bladder.
Cloninger has papillary transitional cell carcinoma. According to Red Sox team physician Bill Morgan, Cloninger's cancer is grade three, which is the most aggressive grade of bladder cancer."
"To make it easy," said Morgan, "there are three grades for classification of bladder cancer. Grade one is good, grade two is worse and grade three is worse yet.
However, Cloninger, after conferring with Dr. Brian Schwartz, the urologist who has been treating him in Fort Myers, was optimistic about the treatment plan.
"The way that it would be treated, if the doctors here (in Fort Myers) and the doctors in Boston agree, is with a catheter inserted into the bladder once a week for six weeks and I wouldn't miss any time," said Cloninger. "It's not supposed to make you sick or anything like that."
The doctors told Cloninger that the method of initial treatment he would receive is 80 percent effective.
"Then they will check it after six weeks and see what the prognosis is at that time," Cloninger said. "If they don't get (all the cancer) they have to use other measures, maybe an operation, (a stronger kind of) chemo, I don't know. But it's 80 percent successful, this first treatment. I'm very optimistic about it, the doctors are very optimistic about it."
The 62-year-old Cloninger doesn't think he will need to take any time off from his job.
Morgan didn't think that was an unrealistic expectation, assuming everything goes according to plan.
"I think if the course of treatment is indeed as described, it's unlikely he will miss a lot of ball time," Morgan said. "This is an installation into the bladder and not into the bloodstream as some chemotherapy is and therefore doesn't have the same extent of side effects as that type of treatment."
Morgan works out of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Boston, and he will have the urologist there, Dr. David Micheson, confer with the doctors in Fort Myers.
Cloninger said that he probably won't start taking treatment until after the Red Sox return from their season-opening 10-game road trip.
In the meantime, Cloninger might receive an additional outside opinion as well.
"One thing about it, there's no rush," Cloninger said. "They couldn't do any (treatment) right now anyway because after they did the procedure last week, they told me they burned a lot out and scraped my bladder a lot, so I had a lot of blood after that. In the meantime, I won't rule out that I may go home to Charlotte, North Carolina and get a second opinion there."
All along, manager Grady Little has been worried a lot more about Tony Cloninger the person than Tony Cloninger the pitching coach. They share a close friendship.
"I think the news we got today on Tony was as good as we could expect," Little said. "That is encouraging."
Even when Cloninger got the initial diagnosis a week ago, he kept a positive attitude. He attributed that in large part to watching the courageous way Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre battled multiple myeloma -- a form of bone marrow cancer. Cloninger was the Yankees bullpen coach at that time.
"How can I not be positive knowing the kind of news Mel Stottlemyre got when he got his, and he was a big influence on me in the past years. I'll probably talk to him tonight," said Cloninger. "Yeah, it's encouraging. Yeah, I know it's a battle. You can't dwell on it."
Morgan said it's too early to know exactly what is ahead for Cloninger.
"The nature of the problem is unpleasant and I think we have to be very cautious in our descriptions of treatment in that the entire diagnostic regiment really hasn't been completed yet," said Dr. Morgan. "I think it's prudent to be a little bit vague at this point until I have the opportunity to speak with Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Micheson has the opportunity to speak with Dr. Schwartz and we all know exactly where each of us stands in terms of what the experience has been with Tony."
[b]Ian Browne (Ian.Browne@mlb.com) is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
© 2003 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
I just read this week that Rudy Tomjanovich was just diagnosed with bladder cancer. :(
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