Philadelphia is still in mourning after losing Darren Daulton, the greatest catcher in Phillies history, at the age of 55. But there was also a brief yet impactful second act to Dutch’s career. Although no longer capable of squatting behind the plate during the 1997 season, he was eager to contend for a World Series title, agreeing to join the Florida Marlins on July 21 and aid their pennant chase. Many who were on and around that team remain convinced that Daulton’s leadership pushed those talented Fish over the top.
The Marlins organization wishes to express our deepest sympathy and sadness over the passing of 1997 World Champion Darren Daulton. https://t.co/2g284kM0bC— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) August 7, 2017
Just ask Jeff Conine, who relinquished an everyday role down the stretch to platoon with him at first base. Conine and Daulton shared a common uniform for barely three months, but grew very close to one another:
Sad day for baseball. One of my all time favorite teammates. He made everyone around him a better player. # Gamer https://t.co/1XOtKqAHHt— Jeff Conine (@jic9er) August 7, 2017
Al Leiter echoed those sentiments:
Hobbled by several knee surgeries, Dutch entered 1997 knowing it would be his final summer as a major league player. That made him compete with a sense of urgency, and he spread that mindset throughout the Marlins clubhouse. It didn’t take long for fans to hear about his influence and admire him for it:
basically the team was struggling & he had a players only Meeting & chewed them out— HEAT NATION (@305_MiamiBoy_) August 7, 2017
Addressing professional athletes with a corny motivational speech? Sounds like something you’d only see in Hollywood. Cliff Floyd was in disbelief as it was happening:
Dutch came over and held a team meeting, like the first week he was there, right? Our locker room was pretty cool—you could see everybody...And Dutch comes in and goes, “This is a country club. Ya’ll come in relaxed, content, complacent. We ain’t winning nothing like that!”
I’m thinking to myself—on this cocky team we have—somebody is going to step up. Somebody about to get up and let Dutch have it.
Not a peep. He commanded that much respect. And I thought to myself, “Wow, this might be it!” I didn’t know what was “it,” but I felt like this was an opportunity for us to shine because everybody understood exactly what he was saying, and I think our accountability went to another level after that meeting.
Charles Johnson credited Daulton for bringing an “emotional change” and offering up catching advice. Closer Robb Nen also considered the speech a turning point in their season.
Of course, Daulton proved to be much more than just a loud voice. He batted .262/.371/.429 (115 wRC+) in 52 regular-season games after the trade and led the team with seven runs scored during the World Series.
Next time the Marlins are fortunate enough to field a championship-caliber roster, they ought to reflect on the Daulton acquisition and seek to imitate it.