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There are few stories out there today that are sadder … or more heartbreaking … than what’s going on with former San Francisco 49ers’ star receiver Dwight Clark.
The man who made NFL history with “The Catch,” the TD reception that launched the 49ers to four Super Bowl victories in the 1980s, is battling ALS — commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease.
But he’s not alone.
Former team owner Eddie DeBartolo — who said he always looked as Clark “like a little brother” — is with him every step of the way, sending Clark to Japan for experimental treatments, addressing his needs and vowing to find the cause of a disease that struck other former 49ers, including Bob Waters, Matt Hazeltine and Gary Lewis.
DeBartolo, who was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016, joined this week’s Talk of Fame Network podcast to detail how difficult Clark’s battle is for Dwight, DeBartolo and everyone who knows or who has come into contact with the irrepressible former star.
“It’s a very, very, very tough subject,” DeBartolo said. “It breaks my heart for what he’s going through. It’s a horrible disease. And I’m going to do what I can.”
To that end, DeBartolo said he spoke with Hall-of-Fame linebacker and former 49er Dave Wilcox about investigating a possible link between ALS and the 49ers’ one-time training facility in Redwood City — seeing if there is … or could be … an environmental connection.
The 49ers were located there until 1988 when they moved to their present location in Santa Clara.
“I am going to officiate a survey of within maybe a mile or a mile-and-a-half of that facility,” DeBartolo said, “and see if there’s been anything other than Dwight and the possibility (there’s something with) the other players that have contracted this disease in Redwood City.
“They always say it’s CTE, and it’s concussions (that are linked to ALS with football players). But maybe it’s something that our Redwood City facility had to do with this. I’m going to go all out … and I’m going to hire a team and hire a company to check within a mile-and-a-half radius of that facility.
“But, I don’t know. When I talk to Dwight he’s like a little brother to me. I just can’t take it. It’s just too tough.”
For more on Eddie DeBartolo’s conversation about Dwight Clark’s battle with ALS, connect to the following link: