DARREN DAULTON HAS A TOOTHACHE.
Not just a dull annoying toothache. A four-alarm somebody-hand-me-a-gun dental calamity.
“Didn’t sleep last night, nothing,” he says when he reaches me at my Clearwater Beach hotel to confirm our meet-up. “I’m hurtin’. But I’ll be there.”
Next morning, I get a text on my cell: “its dutch. At dentist … fuuuk!! Cudnt take it aymore. I call u wen dun.”
An hour later, I find Dutch standing in the hotel lobby, staring out large open doors that overlook the beach and a long pier. It’s an ocean view he’s seen thousands of times, starting with the spring trainings he spent with the Phillies, gunning baseballs down to second and whacking pitches on diamonds just a few short miles from this beach town — the same town where he lives today with his girlfriend of four years, Amanda, a former pro golfer, and, when custody permits, the three youngest of his four children.
When he turns toward me, I see his jaw is swollen, his face misshapen. A tooth was chipped, which exposed a nerve, which caused the pain. He hasn’t slept or had anything to eat for nearly two days. His eyes are glassy from the ordeal.
“I could use a shot of tequila,” he tells the approaching waitress as we settle into a table off the lobby, then thinks better of it: “Just a glass of water, please.”
Darren “Dutch” Daulton, who turns 49 this month, has already lived a few lives.
Now, after a long absence, the former Phillies star is among us again — doing both a Phillies post-game gig for Comcast SportsNet and a highly rated weekday radio show on 97.5 during the baseball season — and people are wondering if this is the advent of yet another new life for Daulton.
Our favorite Daulton past life was the baseball life, the one that came in the ’90s, when we cheered his clubhouse leadership and admired the way he fought through injuries. Women, in particular, loved Dutch. He was a major stud, hands-down the best-looking member of the hell-raising, mullet-wearing, pennant-winning ’93 Phillies, and just maybe the best-looking player in franchise history.
Then there was the off-field life, which no one cheered or loved, a life better suited for TMZ than SportsCenter, one filled with DUIs, a refusal to take a Breathalyzer, an arrest for driving with a suspended license, failing to appear in court, and two spectacular car crashes — one as a passenger, when teammate Lenny Dykstra drove a car into a tree in Radnor after a bachelor party for John Kruk in 1991; the other a decade later, when he smashed up his BMW and claimed he was run off the road as the result of a broken business deal tied to the FBI and the White House.