2017-08-07 11:13:16 UTC
Former Phillies catcher Darren 'Dutch' Daulton dies at 55
Updated: August 7, 2017 - 3:01 AM EDT
by Frank Fitzpatrick, STAFF WRITER
Darren "Dutch" Daulton, the charismatic catcher and master of Macho Row,
whose talent for controlling both a pitching staff and a clubhouse helped
the 1993 Phillies win an improbable National League pennant, died Sunday
at age 55 after a four-year battle with brain cancer.
A three-time all-star, Mr. Daulton played 14 seasons for the Phillies
organization, which drafted him in 1980. But he will be recalled longest
and most fondly in Philadelphia for his role as the cleanup hitter and
locker-room leader of the 1993 Phils.
That wild and wildly popular team, with him supplying much of its power on
and off the field, attracted a then-franchise record 3.1 million fans to
Veterans Stadium, captivating a city that saw in its blue-collar grit and
grime a reflection of itself.
Those Phillies lost to Toronto in a memorable six-game World Series But
four years later, Mr. Daulton finally got his championship as a member of
the 1997 Florida Marlins. After that season, only 35 but unable to catch
anymore because of injury-ravaged knees, he retired.
Persistent pain severely truncated his playing career. A better-than
average defensive catcher and, in his final years, a potent bat, Mr.
Daulton played in 100-plus games only five times. He finished with a .245
batting average, 137 home runs, 588 RBIs and a .357 on-base percentage.
His best seasons were the three in which he was a National League
all-star, 1992 through 1994.
But what made him more valuable than those modest numbers might suggest
were his intangibles, particularly his knack for calling games and
commanding respect. Pitcher Curt Schilling, who blossomed when he began
throwing to Mr. Daulton in 1992, fell under his spell, frequently calling
his battery mate "the best catcher in baseball." Manager Jim Fregosi
labeled Mr. Daulton the game's "best leader."
"If there is ever a problem back there," Fregosi once said, pointing to
the clubhouse, "all I've got to do is tell Dutch. He'll take care of it."
In his 2001 Historical Baseball Abstract, statistical guru Bill James
ranked Mr. Daulton as the 25th best catcher in baseball history. But there
was a stark contrast between that player, one who seemed to have it all
together, and the sad and ultimately tragic figure who emerged in
While many saw him as a future manager, Mr. Daulton could never capitalize
on his baseball assets. Instead, he was beset by personal demons. There
was a bitter divorce from the second of his three wives, occasional
estrangement from his four children, car accidents, arrests on DUI and
speeding charges, a stint in jail, and battles with addictions.
"Anything I did in the past is my fault," he told Philadelphia magazine in
2010. "Not my ex-wife's fault. Not any of my kids' faults. Not baseball.
Not the media. I did the damage."
Along the way, perhaps as a coping mechanism, he developed obsessions with
such bizarre topics as spiritualism, numerology and time travel. The
jacket of his 2007 book, If They Only Knew, claimed it delved into "issues
of ascension, such as dimensions and levels of consciousness; the Mayan
calendar and December 21, 2012; creating one's own reality, and more."
He saw 2012 as particularly relevant.
"I really don't know how to explain it," he told the Daily News in 2003.
"But by Dec. 21, 2012, people will have a pretty good idea. It's all about
consciousness and love. We have the ability to create whatever we want.
We're all made of energy."
Phillies fans who once idolized him began asking the same question posed
by the headline to the Philadelphia magazine profile in 2010, the year he
won a spot on the team's Wall of Fame - "Is Darren Daulton Crazy?" He
played in an era when steroids and amphetamines were omnipresent in
baseball locker rooms. In a 2009 radio interview, he admitted, without
getting specific, that he was no innocent bystander.
"There's probably no one in any sport that has taken more drugs than I
have," he said.
Immediately before and after he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013,
he seemed to rediscover a mental equilibrium. It led him to start the
Darren Daulton Foundation, an organization devoted to helping others with
'Run the clubhouse'
Born in 1962 in Arkansas City, Kan., Darren Arthur Daulton was drafted by
the Phillies in the 25th round of the 1980 draft. He rose surprisingly
quickly through the minors and was summoned to the big leagues in
September 1983, just as a veteran-laden Phillies team was wrapping up an
"Kid," manager Paul Owens advised him that first day, "there are four or
five future Hall of Famers behind those doors. They might act like you're
not even there, but don't be discouraged. Just watch them. Observe. Pick
up what you can in the month you're here."
That lesson in the unwritten clubhouse code, in yielding authority to the
veterans who had earned it, never left him.
"I learned never to open my mouth," he said of '83. "I never said a word
around those guys. It was clear that this was their team."
Injuries and offensive struggles limited his playing time until 1989, when
new manager Nick Leyva installed him as his everyday catcher. His greatest
seasons came under Fregosi, who upon getting the job in 1991 told his
catcher he wanted him to "run the clubhouse."
Fregosi "was the best manager I've ever played for," Mr. Daulton said in
2014. "Our relationship was so special, and he was the one who taught me
to be a leader."
Mr. Daulton became the Phillies' authoritative voice whenever something
needed to be said publicly or privately. A lefthanded hitter, he finally
broke out offensively in 1992 and 1993, two of his three consecutive
all-star seasons. A No. 7 or 8 hitter previously, his was a
middle-of-the-order bat under Fregosi.
In 1991, a passenger in a car driven by Lenny Dykstra, he was involved in
a serious accident after the two departed a Main Line birthday party for
teammate John Kruk.
Despite being on a last-place team in '92, he led the NL with 109 RBIs and
was top 10 in homers, walks, extra-base hits, OPS and both slugging and
on-base percentages. He was awarded his only Silver Slugger that year and
finished sixth in the voting for most valuable player. Mr. Daulton drove
in another 100 runs in the pennant-winning season that followed but likely
was more valuable for the way he handled a makeshift pitching staff that
was far from the NL's best.
His studied cool and swaggering self-assurance provided stability on an
outspoken and outrageous roster, one that included the steroid-inflated
Dykstra, the spotlight-hogging Schilling, the peculiar and befuddling
Kruk, the Tourette's-affected Jim Eisenreich and the wildly erratic Mitch
"He's like E.F. Hutton," reliever Larry Andersen said that season. "When
he speaks, everyone listens. He has a presence about him. It's like he's
the Godfather, and we're all a bunch of thugs."
Mr. Daulton typically was the first to emerge from the players'
training-room hideaway to confront postgame questions. He was the buffer
with a media many Phillies distrusted and avoided. He convened team
meetings and, in one memorable instance in St. Louis, publicly questioned
the guts of pitchers Schilling and Tommy Greene.
"The thing that has made him so important to this team is the respect he
gets," Andersen added, "the respect he's earned over his career."
Traded to Florida
Mr. Daulton, who famously described them as "gypsies, tramps and thieves,"
was in many ways indistinguishable from his teammates. He, too, had a
mullet, a frequently dirty uniform, and an attitude. But, a favorite of
the team's female fans despite then being married to one of the first
Hooters women, his matinee-idol looks set him apart. Hoping to capitalize
on that appeal, the producers of the TV soap opera Santa Barbara gave him
a cameo appearance in 1993.
Midway through the '94 season, he was hitting .300 with 15 home runs, 56
RBIs and a .549 slugging percentage when a labor dispute ended the season
prematurely. He hobbled through the next two-plus seasons before, in July
1997, the Phillies traded him to the contending Marlins.
"He deserves to go to a contender," Schilling said at the time. "He's done
so much for this team and this organization."
No longer physically able to catch, he pinch-hit, played first base and
was a key contributor down the stretch for Jim Leyland's world-champion
Marlins. The combined statistics for his final season were more than
respectable, .263 average, 14 home runs, 63 RBIs, and 68 runs in 395
Out of baseball, he drifted in and out of trouble. His driver's license
was suspended after several speeding tickets in Florida. In 2001, during
that suspension, he was involved in an accident and charged with driving
under the influence. Two years later came another DUI arrest.
The final years of his second marriage, to Nicole Garcia, were tumultuous.
He was charged with domestic abuse and later jailed for violating the
terms of their divorce agreement. That's about the time he discovered
"Nicole thinks I'm crazy," he told ESPN in 2006. "She just doesn't
In his later years, he appeared to move away from those obsessions and
find peace. But in 2013, he was diagnosed with a particularly virulent
form of brain cancer, gliabastoma. Surgery to remove two tumors affected
his speech. Although he would be declared "cancer-free" two years later,
the disease returned with a vengeance last year.
Mr. Daulton lived in Florida but returned often to Philadelphia, where his
popularity never waned. Before his battles with cancer, he cohosted a
radio show before Phillies games. His bright smile and engaging
personality seemed to remind Phillies fans of good times even if the
second half of his own life could be seen as a desperate struggle to find
some of his own.
"Sometimes I look back at my life, and I see all the baseball I played,
the all-star games, the World Series, how I helped some guys in the
clubhouse, how great my kids are, some of the nice things I've done for
people along the way," Daulton said in that 2010 Philadelphia magazine
article, "and I think maybe I'm doing OK, that maybe things aren't so bad,
just maybe I'm not so crazy after all."
Mr. Daulton is survived by his parents, Carol and Dave of Arkansas City,
Kansas; one brother, Dave Jr.; of Arkansas City, Kansas; his wife Amanda
of Clearwater, Fla.; and his four children Zachary, Summer, Savannah, and
Darren Jr. of Clearwater.
Funeral services will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations can be
made to the Darren Daulton Foundation Foundation, 1339 Chestnut Street,
Suite 500, Philadelphia, PA 19107.