The lasting image many of us will have of Darren Daulton is his reaction to catching Mitch Williams’ final pitch in Game 6 of the 1993 National League Championship Series, racing out to the mound to embrace a leaping Wild Thing as the team celebrated their first trip to the Fall Classic in a decade.
The larger-than-life catcher named “Dutch,” the undisputed leader of that Macho Row gang, lost his long battle with brain cancer on Sunday night. He was just 55.
In July of 2013, Daulton was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. He underwent surgery to remove two tumors from his brain, but in February of 2015 announced he was cancer free. However, he continued his fight with cancer by establishing the Darren Daulton Foundation, which the website says is “committed to providing financial assistance to those who suffer from brain cancer and brain tumors.”
Daulton was a three-time All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner who had his best season with the Phillies in 1992, when he put up a 6.9 WAR season and led the National League in RBIs. He was the driving force behind the ‘93 team that surprised everyone and won the pennant, and he eventually won his first championship after being traded to the Florida Marlins during the 1997 season.
He is generally regarded as the greatest catcher in team history. He has the most WAR of any Phils backstop, and is second in home runs, runs scored and RBIs, behind Mike Lieberthal.
Drafted by the Phillies in the 25th round in 1980, he made his Major League debut with the team for the pennant winners of 1983, but didn’t become the team’s full-time catcher until the 1989 season. Knee problems were a recurring issue for Dutch, derailing his 1994 season when he had a .300 batting average with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in the team’s first 67 games. He played in just 98 games in ‘95 and missed virtually all of ‘96 as well before being dealt to Florida in 1997.
Daulton spent 17 years in the Phils’ organization, and Bill James ranked him as the 25th greatest catcher of all-time in his Historical Baseball Abstract in 2001. He was inducted into the Phillies’ Wall of Fame in 2010.
After his playing career was over, Daulton became more active in Philadelphia media, appearing on Comcast SportsNet as a postgame show co-host and hosting a radio show on 97.5 The Fanatic. He also authored a book on the occult and numerology called If They Only Knew, in 2007.
The Phillies are scheduled to hold a Darren Daulton Foundation Night at Citizens Bank Park on September 17 when the Phillies host the Oakland A’s. He leaves behind his wife, Amanda, and four children from his previous two marriages.
He also leaves behind a complicated legacy, but will certainly be remembered as one of the most important, and beloved, players in franchise history.