A Wudder Sports Requiem for the Fallen Leader of the '93 Phillies
Let’s keep it funky, the 1993 Phillies were the most batshit-crazy baseball team of all-time.
Lenny Dykstra was, and still is, a dirtbag of legendarily infamous degree.
The outspoken, stubborn brat persona that Curt Schilling honed, towel over head in the dugout as Mitch Williams pitched, probably helped him become one of the best big-game pitchers of my lifetime. But it also may have convinced him of his own brilliance, led to him bilking New Hampshire taxpayers out of money for a since-bankrupted computer gaming company, then later fired from a cushy fallback ESPN studio job for repeated racial/religious/gender gas-lighting commentary, and finally evolving into a Breitbart carnival barker.
John Kruk, took Sixer icon Charles Barkley’s “I’m not a role model” athlete campaign to the next level, declaring he wasn’t an athlete.
Their closer was Ricky Vaughan’s Major League character come to life, who later blew a cushy gig with MLB by going Kenny Powers on a little-league umpire.
The third baseman, Dave Hollins, was pure red-ass, often looking like a wild-eyed Henry Hill, in the coked-out, 1980's, helicopter-followed final half-hour of Goodfellas. A surly, sometimes scary, steroid-case, whose bad attitude and 'deep concentration' pre-game rituals, bewildered even the mercurial, typically less-than-sociable Barry Bonds, in a ‘93 All-Star Game clubhouse interaction arranged by Kruk as a joke.
Pete Incaviglia looked like the captain of a local Teamsters beer-league softball squad, whose blues-band played American Legion halls on weekends.
Veteran left-handed starter Danny Jackson, nicknamed "Jason", as in Voorhees of the Friday the 13th franchise due to his rep as a psycho among this group of psychos, had a Hulk jersey-tearing celebration on the pitcher's mound. It was the 90's most frequently televised male stripping routine, aside from Marky Mark at MTV celebrity games.
The manger, Jim Fregosi, smoked cigarettes in the clubhouse, during games, often with Lenny Dykstra, who famously consumed two packs of chewing tobacco per contest, leaving perpetual puddles of brown spit in the Vet astro-turf, for the opposing team's centerfielder to navigate. When Fregosi was later fired by the Phillies in '96, then returned to the Vet, ironically, as the Blue Jays manager in '99, he showed up to manage in sunglasses, after getting his eye blackened the night before, in a hotel bar fight nearby the stadium.
The most normal member of this Rogue’s Gallery that won the ’93 NL pennant, was likely the right-fielder, Jim Eisenreich, who due to suffering from Tourrette's Syndrome, involuntarily twitched and shouted obscenities.
This is not a team that could have existed in the internet era. That girl on her prom night who rode around the vet in a limo with Lenny for a spell. That flag hanging in Nails’ son’s street-facing bedroom window in Ardmore. The countless bar fights. The perpetual gambling. All those special vitamins consumed. The “locker-room talk”. The killing of cases of beer after every game in the clubhouse, before hopping on I-95, hammered and daring anybody to drive faster than they drive. An antagonistic relationship with the media of borderline Trumpian levels. There's no way "Macho Row", could have survived in the age of Facebook Live. Even without camera phones and a more permissive era of media coverage, these guys still did their best to put the Philles' "P" in problematic.
With all that being said, you’d naturally have to be a little off, to become the de facto King of this crew of cast-off wackos. Enter Dutchie. Or more accurately, enter all these characters, to the Philadelphia Phillies, the only major-league club Darren Daulton had ever known, as its catcher of record for nearly a decade. Daulton had a cup of coffee with the last Phillies team to win anything, the 1983 “Wheeze Kids”. But it wasn’t until the end of the Mike Schmidt era that he really became a regular presence for the Phils at, and behind, the plate.
Headed into that magical '93 campaign, Daulton was coming off an All-Star appearance and career season to date. He was also only a year removed from a serious car accident, with a drunk Dykstra behind the wheel en route home from Kruk’s Bachelor party. It was a car wreck that nearly ended both their lives. It spared them but did, for all intents and purposes, kill their team’s season, while they spent the rest of it on the disabled list.
The ’93 Phillies and ’01 Sixers are my two favorite sports teams to date. Never mind that we finally snapped the city's 27-year streak without a championship, in any sport, in 2008. Or that Moses parted Broad Street with a Fo-Fo-Fo championship parade when I was in second grade. It’s the same reason I liked the ’88 and ’91 Kelly Gang Green Eagles teams more than any Andy Reid incarnation. Some teams just feel more like one, while possessing a swagger that's undeniably entertaining. And since Philadelphia titles are akin to Haley’s Comet sightings, there's gotta be other factors in play, for how you pick your favorites.
Stuff like, “where were you, when AI stepped over Ty Lue, and Mitch hung that pitch?”.
That ’93 season is ingrained in my memory. It was the closest we’d come to winning anything, during the entirety of my teenage years.
I believe a pre-mili-Turry Egan once said he saw every game, if not every pitch, of that '93 season. I can’t say that I’ve watched a full Phillies game during all of 2017, despite actually attending a game. Turr spent most of that season watching the Phils in that bottom-floor right, somewhat dodgy La Monte apartment in Audobon, shortly after graduating from high school.
I’d stop by La Monte as a High School senior later that fall, on weeknights I could escape my parents ire long enough to make it out of the house. While my late-great friend Lagger, in an amazing display of stubborn resolve, managed to live there for a stretch, while going to school every day, plus caring for a dog, as a high school junior. Lag was also one of the five people that I was with when witnessing the gut-wrenching end of the '93 MLB season in Game 6.
We were at Big Bob’s in the Poconos. With Little Bob hosting and Big Bob not knowing we were there. Woulda got away clean with that night too. If I hadn’t blown up the spot, leaving a phone-bill paper trail to surface a few weeks later, due to yours truly, after that heart-breaking game seeking some consoling, and foolishly long distance calling two of the Kelly's I knew.
Is this bit about who and where we watched ’93 Phillies baseball, too inside baseball for you? I don’t know what to tell yoūse. But this is The Wudder, which means it’s our safe place, where we do whatever we wanna do. We don’t simply allude to folks at the end of a tribute here.
Especially when it comes to our fallen friends, we speak their names:
Shoot, while we’re here, shout out to Menphyl, Radin and Christian too.
Each one of you, in some way, has helped shape who we are, and what we do.
With that said, we return to discussing a different type of Phallen Phriend:
Darren “Dutch” Daulton.
During the late eighties, I never thought Darren Daulton, nor the Philadelphia Phillies after Schmidt’s last MVP season (’86) thru 1991/92, were very good at baseball. There really wasn’t much evidence to suggest otherwise. Not only regarding Daulton, but all across the entire history of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise. It’s a team that, before the JRoll/Howard/Chase teams came around, basically had almost no success in their entire hundred year history, outside of one fruitful stretch, in the first four years I spent on Earth, from ’76 thru ’80.
Other than that, fans could read that the Phillies were good enough to lose to the Yankees in the World Series in 1950. Or that they owned baseball’s most historic collapse, in 1964. That’s basically the franchise highlight list. I’m not exaggerating in telling you there’s not much more.
At one point, after we’d sent Bo Diaz to the Reds, and traded Ozzie Virgil to the Braves for Bedrock & Milt, but before we signed the franchise’s biggest free-agent bust in Lance Parrish, the Phillies opted for a youth movement at catcher. I recall around that time, initially believing It'd be John Russell, not Darren Daulton, helping lead those Phillies, to a second-place-but-twenty-plus-games-back finish, before bottoming out later with Lance & Nick Leyva.
It was only later on, attending games during middle school, with my old man on his 16-game plan in Section 209, that I’d discover in Russell what a shrewd veteran scout had secretly told local sports-talk host, Steve Fredericks: “he’s got a hole in his swing that you could drive a truck thru”. Dutch was always better than Russell behind the plate and calling a game, but he eventually grew to become a less predictable and tougher out, while standing alongside it, too.
Due to injury, strike and trade seasons, Darren Daulton really only had two objectively great years as a Phillie, despite being a part of the organization as a player for nearly two decades.
He’s probably only, at highest, the third best Phillies catcher of my lifetime, behind Bob Boone and Carlos Ruiz. Whoever wants to try making a case for Mike Lieberthal over Darren Daulton, please email me. Then tell me what date and time you’d like to meet me in the Jetro parking lot, so we can fight. I just took my glasses off, while typing that last sentence, in giddy anticipation of that righteous kerfuffle.
Don’t make me take it to the old school. Because some things about the Phightins, are worth phighting over. Like the Mets being a joke, Jimmy Rollins being a Hall of Famer, and Ruben Amaro somehow being as bad a GM, as he was a baseball player, for the Philadelphia Phillies.
As the team leader, of both pitching staff and positional players, Dutch Daulton understood innately, when it was time to light a fire, and when he had to extinguish one. Imagine how few times he had to spark the former, as opposed to how many times he had to control the latter, inside that 1993 Phillies clubhouse. It was a role he wasn't even finished with in retirement, interceding in a near-physical altercation between The Dude and the Wild Thing, shortly after his first round of treatments for brain cancer, the first time he beat it, in 2013.
This extra-special brand of idiots, to a man, deferred to and trusted in Dutch, for life. Why? It's not really any of our business.
Much like the old Dave Chappelle routine, warning folks not to mess with the one white guy hanging out in a large group of black men, because “you have no idea what he did to earn those people’s respect”.
Dutch wasn’t spilling trade secrets on his teammates, not even while plugging his book on astrology and the secret life of rubber-tree plants.
He was undeniably a Philly Sports Legend, with all of the loaded subtext that phrase entails:
Tough as nails. Not as good as some of his biggest admirers thought he was. But nowhere near as bad as he got it, from his most vocal detractors, during down times. A gamer, whose effort you never questioned. A man of the people, who at least one or two of everybody’s friends in the Delaware Valley area, have a story about meeting some night, while out on the town.
A man who made some bad decisions, that led to encounters with local law enforcement. A part of an iconic team that didn’t quite make it over the hump, but whose season was almost memorable enough to make you forget that fact. And, like Schill and The Dude, a big factor in winning a ring, playing in another uniform.
So we spark up a metaphorical Dutchie for Darren Daulton, and let the vapors circulate. It was a treat to count Dutch as one of us,. Hopefully he's out there care-free, conversing with plants and espousing oculist numerology somewhere out there in this August air, free of judgment.
Or perhaps that whole bizarre period of Dutch’s early retirement life, was in retrospect, some sign of the malignant tumors unknowingly growing inside his brain. Maybe the place he worked, aka “The Vet”, really was to blame, for the cancer that might have gone on to kill him, Vuk, Tug, and others, at far too early an age, similar to how an asbestos-ridden Owens-Corning factory floor did with my grandfather.
But that dilapidated concrete edifice of 70’s multi-sports-complex, did have rats the size of cats, and later built a jail in its bottom floor.
What we can say tho, is thank you for your service, and we hate to see you go.