Darren Daulton

Daulton overcame numerous knee injuries to develop into one of the National League‘s most productive catchers, and was the inspirational leader of the 1993 NL pennant-winning Phillies. Philadelphia traded away Bo Diaz and then Ozzie Virgil to make room for the Daulton – John Russell catching platoon, but injuries limited Daulton’s playing time in 1984-85. A home-plate collision with Mike Heath in June 1986 tore up his left knee, ending his season and thereafter preventing him from crouching as low as other catchers. In 1987 the Phillies signed Lance Parrish, and Daulton remained the backup until 1989. He caught 126 games that season, although his offensive game (.201, eight home runs) still needed work.

In May 1991 Phillies leadoff man Lenny Dykstra was driving Daulton home late at night from teammate John Kruk’s bachelor party. Dykstra, who had been drinking, lost control of the car and crashed into a tree. He was later charged with driving under the influence and suffered three broken ribs, a broken collarbone and a broken cheekbone, while Daulton would escape with a broken left eye socket and a scratched cornea. Both players would miss substantial playing time the rest of the season.

Daulton turned into a force at the plate in 1992, when he belted 27 home runs and led the National League with 109 RBIs (perhaps more impressively, he managed 11 stolen bases) and made the first of two straight trips to the All-Star game. The following season he virtually duplicated those numbers (24, 105) while leading the surprising Phillies to an NL East title. Daulton, Kruk and Dykstra came to symbolize the gritty, hustling blue-collar character of the club. After upsetting the two-time defending NL Champion Braves in the NLCS, Philadelphia fell in a six-game World Series to Toronto as closer Mitch Williams blew a pair of late-inning leads.

After catching 287 games the previous two seasons, Daulton began to lose time behind the plate to his perennial knee problems. He tore ligaments in his right knee in August 1995 and played in just five games the next season. When he returned in 1997 he took to the outfield with cameos at first base. Stuck in a rebuilding mode, the Phillies traded Daulton to Florida that July. His veteran leadership and clutch bat helped the wild-card winning Marlins into the World Series, where Daulton closed out his career on a high note as Florida defeated Cleveland in a seven-game war of attrition.