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Former Phillie Darren Daulton faces toughest battle yet

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As a 14 year-old kid who stepped into the Philadelphia Phillies locker room for the first time in 1992 as a fill-in bat boy, I was excited and kind of nervous at the same time.

 

You couldn’t help but be awestruck. After all, these were the same guys you watched night in and night out every day for six months. You emulated these guys on the little league field, collected their baseball cards or Starting Lineup figures. Photo: Depressedfan.com

 

And now, I was giving them their bats and collecting their arm guards.

 

After meeting most of the team (I say “most” because I was only given one rule while walking around the clubhouse: do NOT talk to Lenny Dykstra), I made my way down to the dugout where Darren Daulton was checking out which bats to use for that night’s game.

 

“Who’s this guy?” Daulton asked my fellow bat boy Anthony in a rather jovial tone before introducing himself to me. After 13 seasons in the Phillies organization and a bevy of grueling knee injuries, Dutch was healthy and off to the best start of his major league career. After I told him I voted for him in the All-Star voting, he smiled back at me while walking away and said “Man, we have to keep this kid around.” While most of the guys like Ricky Jordan, Terry Mulholland and Larry Bowa made me feel right at home, it was Daulton’s approval that seemed to really validate things.

 

Darren Daulton was was undisputedly the quintessential leader during that era of Phillies baseball. Although Dutch had an air of confidence that eventually made its way throughout the rest of the locker room, it wasn’t always that way.

 

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Nine years earlier, Daulton broke into the big leagues and learned from some of the greatest Phillies to ever wear the pinstripes: Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Tug McGraw and arguably the greatest Phillies pitcher ever: Steve Carlton. However, Daulton suffered the first of his many devastating knee injuries on a play at home plate during Carlton’s final appearance as a Phillie. The next year, he took a backseat to Lance Parrish, then he broke his hand after watching a bad at bat in the video room.

 

Off the diamond, he suffered severe injuries after near-fatal car wreck with Dykstra after John Kruk’s bachelor party in 1991. He played through great pain, but Daulton never complained. His knees got to be so bad to where he could no longer catch and Benito Santiago came in to take his place.  After many thought he was officially done for good after another knee injury limited him to five games in 1996, Daulton came back again in 1997, once again persevering. Yes, on and off the field, Darren Daulton has had his share of numerous personal setbacks and hardships.

 

Now, Daulton is faced with another obstacle- his biggest one yet. A lot of us are still coming to grips with the news that Daulton has recently been diagnosed with two brain tumors. Prior to the diagnosis, Daulton, who hosts Talking Baseball with Dutch on 97.5 the Fanatic, had not been feeling well for several weeks. The first tumor will reportedly be operated on next week. However, news regarding the other tumor is rather vague. Although doctors should know more after the initial operation, early reports have said that the tumor is believed to be inoperable. There’s really no more information to give right now. Of course, nobody wants to speculate on the possible severity of Daulton’s condition at this time.  Of course, the Phillies are no stranger to their alumni battling brain tumors. McGraw and John Vukovich bost lost their battles with cancer in 2004 and 2007, respectively.


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Although Daulton gave the fans plenty of memorable moments during his time in Phillies pinstripes, one particular play as his time in Philly was winding down really sticks out in my mind because it typified his character as well as the tenacity he displayed on the baseball field.

 

It was near the tail end of my freshman year at St. Joe’s. The Phillies were playing the Pirates and there were runners in scoring position in the top of the first inning. Daulton, now playing right field after nine knee operations, made a diving grab off a liner to right and managed to double up one of the base runners to escape a major catastrophe. The Phillies absolutely stunk that year, but nonetheless, Daulton continued to give it his all. A person who’s had only had one knee operation couldn’t make that play let alone someone who’s had nine of them, but that was Darren Daulton.

 

Now he has one more fight ahead of him. And if any Phillies fan knows Darren Daulton, they know he’s going to tackle this thing head on no matter what the cost.

 

Get well soon, Dutch. We're all pulling for you.

 

 

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Photo: Depressedfan.com