June 27, 2013

Ark City native Darren Daulton diagnosed with brain tumors

PHILADELPHIA – Former All-Star catcher Darren Daulton, an Arkansas City native, has been diagnosed with two brain tumors and will undergo surgery next week.

It is news no family wants to hear once and now, for the third time in a decade, the Phillies family is dealing with it again.

Darren Daulton has two brain tumors.

The news about the unquestioned leader of the 1993 Phillies National League championship team first broke Thursday afternoon in a statement released by 97.5 The Fanatic, the radio station that carries Daulton's weeknight program "Talking Baseball with Dutch." The statement said that Daulton, an Arkansas City native, is scheduled for surgery early next week.

"We're saddened by the news about Darren," Phillies president David Montgomery said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family at this time. We, along with our fans, are praying for a full recovery."

Jim Fregosi, the manager of the 1993 Phillies, could not believe the news.

"This is a man who has meant so much to me," Fregosi said during a telephone interview. "I'm not just talking about as a ballplayer, but as a person. I think the world of him and he's like a son to me. He had such great leadership qualities and meant so much to our team."

The news was especially unnerving to Fregosi, who gave the eulogy at John Vukovich's funeral after the longtime Phillies coach died after a battle with brain cancer in 2007.

Tug McGraw, the pitcher who recorded the final out of the Phillies' first World Series title in 1980, also died from brain cancer in 2004.

"When you have two of your best friends ever in Vuke and Dutch, it's just unbelievable," Fregosi said. "I don't want to sound too down because I know this is going to be a fight for him."

Mickey Morandini was informed about his former Phillies teammate before he managed the organization's low-A Lakewood team Thursday night.

"I'm heartbroken," he said. "Obviously he taught me a lot about playing the game and being a professional. He taught me how to be a good teammate, when to say something, when not to say something. He was the best leader I ever had in the clubhouse. Obviously I'll pray for him and I hope everything is going to be all right."

Daulton's career was at its nadir when Lee Thomas took over as Phillies general manager in the middle of the 1988 season. The catcher hit .208 that year and .201 the following season, but Thomas stuck with Daulton and was rewarded with a three-time all-star who led the National League in RBIs in 1992.

"He was a stud," Thomas said. "I always thought Dutch could do anything he wanted after he quit playing. We don't do what we did in 1993 without him. When I went over there, he was still trying to find his way, but he fought through that and he got hurt and fought through that, too. I expected him to be a big-league manager."

Daulton, 51, was a 25th-round draft pick out of high school by the Phillies in 1980. He made it to the big leagues in 1983 as a September call-up, but did not become the starting catcher until 1990.

His best two seasons were 1992 and 1993 when he hit a combined .263 with 67 doubles, nine triples, 51 home runs and 214 RBIs. A year later, he was hitting .300 with 15 home runs and 56 RBIs after 69 games when his season was cut short by knee surgery, one of the nine he had during his career.

He retired in 1997 after helping the Florida Marlins win their first World Series title by hitting .389 with two doubles and a home run during the seven-game series against Cleveland.

Despite having no coaching experience, Daulton interviewed and was the runner-up for the Phillies' managerial job that went to Larry Bowa after the 2000 season. Daulton worked as a bullpen coach for Tampa Bay in 2001, but resigned in the middle of the season.

Daulton, during his career and afterward, experienced his share of personal problems. He was a passenger in the infamous one-vehicle car crash with former teammate Lenny Dykstra in May 1991. The accident left Daulton with a broken left eye socket, a scratched left cornea and a heart bruise. He hit just .196 that year.

After his career, he was arrested on domestic violence charges in Florida after an altercation with his second wife Nicole. He spent two months in jail on contempt of court charges related to his divorce proceedings.

Daulton also received attention after his playing career for his personal beliefs, which included stories of time travel.

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