By Harry Allison
Darren Daulton was the heartbeat of the Phillies’ 1993 National League champions, who formed a deep and lasting connection with their fans despite losing in the end.
The Phillies lost the World Series to Toronto in six games. The final pitch never found Daulton’s glove. Joe Carter, the Blue Jays slugger, drove it over the left-field fence to win the title.
“After that team, for all of us, baseball changed forever,” starter Curt Schilling told the New York Times yesterday. “It’s like that time of your life when you realize: That was the greatest year of my life. You just know it’s never going to be that way again.”
Schilling would go on to have the best career of anyone from that Phillies team. It was his fourth organization, and Daulton was the first field general to get through to him, to make him understand, he said, “the intelligent, simpler side of the game.” If a player as serious as Daulton believed Schilling was good enough to dominate, he knew he did not need to complicate things any more.
“There’s no question in my mind that I don’t have the career I had without him,” Schilling said. “I never played with anybody like him again.”
In the fourth game against Toronto, the Phillies had blown a big lead and lost, 15-14, in the highest-scoring game in World Series history. They trailed, three games to one, the same hole they had faced against Baltimore a decade earlier, when Daulton was a nonroster rookie.
The Phillies lost then and watched the Orioles celebrate on their field. In 1993, Daulton coaxed the best out of Schilling: a shutout to send the series, defiantly, back to Toronto for its fateful conclusion.
“Guys played the game the right way, and played so hard,” Dave Hollins said. “We weren’t the most talented team in the league, but the city responded to that. They work hard. They don’t like prima donnas, or guys not hustling. They know the game. And Darren, as hard as he played, he was also very articulate. He could speak to the media — and he looked like a Hollywood star.”
In one way, Daulton was lucky even to be alive. Two years earlier, after a bachelor party for John Kruk, Daulton and center fielder Lenny Dysktra were injured in a car crash. Daulton broke his left eye socket. Dykstra broke three ribs, his collarbone and his cheekbone, and was charged with drunken driving.
Other misdeeds would follow Dykstra far into retirement. Yet the aura of those 1993 Phillies has never waned. Beyond the image was a savvy offensive approach ahead of its time. Daulton, Dykstra and Kruk each drew at least 110 walks, and the Phillies easily led the N.L. in runs. Manager Jim Fregosi expertly deployed platoons at three positions.
Atlanta had just won two pennants, and then added Maddux and Fred McGriff. The Phillies didn’t really care. The Braves made the playoffs eight times in the 1990s, and this was their only first-round knockout.
“It was America’s Team versus America’s Most Wanted — and we reveled in that kind of stuff,” Schilling said. “It was fun. We played along with it, and it was who we were. We fought you, and we beat you.”