Department: Is Darren Daulton Crazy?

Drunk. Pill popper. Wife beater. Doomsday prognosticator … It’s amazing the things people will say about him.

MAJOR ASSHOLE, BRILLIANT WRITER,” Dutchie says, flashing the warm and extravagant smile I’ll see repeatedly over the next two days.

He’s talking about Bill Conlin, the veteran baseball scribe for the Daily News, and his assessment — one most baseball people would agree with, including maybe Conlin himself — is intended as a compliment.

Dutch and I are talking baseball, a couple of guys shooting the shit, buying time until the inevitable plunge into metaphysics and ascension and astral travel and all the other topics that have led people to wonder if Daulton is certifiably bonkers.

Though Dutch doesn’t seem to mind talking baseball, on this day at least (and it could be the tooth) the topic doesn’t elicit much enthusiasm. In his playing days, he saw baseball lifers all around him, guys who clung to the game long after their playing days, and he didn’t want to become that. “I always had a lot more on my mind,” Dutch says.

His relationship with the game was a love-hate affair, the latter stemming in part from pressure he felt as team leader. Once you take leadership on, he says, there’s no going back. You become the go-to guy for everything — from pumping a player up, to giving someone hell, to asking Lenny to come out of the clubhouse and say a few words to a reporter.

It’s why he relates closely to current clubhouse leader Chase Utley: “He never shows it, but I know that burden he carries.”

Yes, of course, he finds it ironic that he’s now working as a baseball analyst.

“Shit, Tim, the only thing I watched on TV after I quit baseball was Seinfeld,” he says.

And then, just like that, we’re somewhere else:

“We’re all living in two worlds,” Dutch says, his smile turning brilliant. “The conscious world and the unconscious world.”

Perfect timing, too, because just at that moment I’d noticed the swelling in Daulton’s face had majorly subsided and had been wondering if, well, you know, he could have somehow …

“It’s important, Tim, to be of the world,” he says, right on cue, “not in the world.”

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