Darren Daulton Was…Interesting

So what’s so intriguing about a sub-.250 catcher that had a knee surgery every 129 games? For one, he became the heart and soul of a surprisingly good series of Philadelphia Phillies teams in the early ’90s after generating MLB’s lowest batting average of the previous decade. He was the team’s cleanup hitter, though he finished his career with just 137 HRs and 588 RBIs. He repaid the team’s faith in him with some of the most timely hitting in team history, keeping the Phillies within striking distance throughout their chase of an elusive championship. He had numerous knee surgeries and played 83% of his career games behind the plate, yet generated one the best all-time stolen base success rates. He rarely hit into double plays, a trait rarely attributed to catchers with bad knees but a tremendous advantage for his team. Most of all, he was respected by teammates that built their reputation on having no respect for anyone.

From Interesting to Surreal

Daulton spent 83% of his MLB playing time as a catcher and had an 83% success rate when stealing bases. As a proponent of numerology, he surely would have had some thoughts about that coincidence. He also would have had thoughts about the use of the term “coincidence,” as he did not seem to believe in them. Over time he developed a passion for all things paranormal, from ghost stories to conspiracy theories, and spiritual guidance to multiple dimensions and planes of being. These interests intensified as he moved further beyond baseball, ultimately resulting in a book (If They Only Knew, 2007) on his views of metaphysics.

I’m not sure what the underlying cause of this line of reasoning was. Some people just get into kooky stuff. Others seem impaired by substance abuse issues, something Daulton seems to have a history with (largely DUIs but some radio interview comments suggest other causes). He battled recurring brain cancers later in life, ultimately passing away from the illness in 2017. I can’t help but wonder if all three combined over a lengthy gestation period to amplify these thoughts.

Daulton’s ’93 Refractor Gets Collector Interest

Topps put 7 Philadelphia players in the ’93 Finest checklist and Daulton’s card has remained one of the most popular. He was coming off the best year of his career, one in which he generated 7.2 wins above replacement. This level of WAR production is more than double what was needed for Juan Gonzalez to take home the 1996 American League MVP award and is in fact 1.5 games higher than Juan Gone’s best year. The Phillies, led by Daulton, crashed their way past the Atlanta Braves to the World Series and into the collective memories of large numbers of Philadelphia fans.

Daulton’s ’93 Refractor is a great looking card. He’s in a classic batting pose in a photo that presents well with the newly-introduced chromium printing process. The reflective coloring of his red batting helmet pops under light.