Darren Daulton, a three-time All-Star catcher who led a ragtag Philadelphia Phillies team to an improbable pennant in 1993, died on Sunday at his home in Clearwater, Fla. He was 55.
The Phillies said the cause was brain cancer, which Daulton had fought for four years.
Daulton, who was given a plaque on the Phillies’ Wall of Fame in 2010, started his major league career with Philadelphia in 1983 and stayed with the organization until 1997, when he was traded to the Florida Marlins. He helped the Marlins beat Cleveland in the World Series that year, hitting .389. He then retired with a .245 batting average, a .357 on-base percentage and a .427 slugging percentage.
The Phillies did not have a formal captain’s position during Daulton’s career, but as a no-nonsense figure who had fought through many knee injuries to become an everyday player, he was the acknowledged team leader.
In 1992, the Phillies finished in last place, but Daulton still managed a career-high 27 home runs and a National League-leading 109 runs batted in. The next season, he willed Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk and a shaggy group of misfits to a surprise National League Championship Series victory over the Atlanta Braves.
Kruk told the MLB.com columnist Paul Hagen that when Daulton spoke, his rowdy teammates listened. Daulton once cautioned them to keep their mouths shut after winning the first three games of a four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“It would have been easy for one of us to say something,” Kruk told Hagen. “But that’s the thing. When he spoke, we listened. No one said anything. No one popped off. And we ended up completing the sweep the next day.”
The Phillies lost the World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-2, with Daulton behind the plate during Joe Carter’s title-clinching home run.
Reliever Mitch Williams, who threw the final pitch, told The New York Times a few days after the game that Daulton had called for a fastball high and away, but that he had “jerked the ball” and threw it low and inside.
Williams received death threats from irate Phillies fans, but his teammates were more supportive, especially Daulton.
“Darren Daulton came over to me in the clubhouse and said, ‘All year I’ve been tellin’ hitters what’s comin’, and wouldn’t you know, in a World Series someone finally believed me!’ ” Williams said. “I appreciated that.”
Darren Arthur Daulton was born on Jan. 3, 1962, to Carol and David Daulton in Arkansas City, Kan. He attended Arkansas City High School, where he played quarterback as well as baseball, and was drafted by the Phillies in the 25th round.
He was a longtime resident of Clearwater, where the Phillies hold spring training. He is is survived by his wife, Amanda; his parents; a brother, David Jr.; and four children, Zachary, Summer, Savannah and Darren Jr.