UNTIL TWO YEARS ago, Darren Daulton was best known as the Samson-haired catcher and leader of the 1993 Phillies team that slid, spat and slugged its way to the World Series. Then he started telling people that he has conversed with woodland creatures and that the world as we know it will change on December 21, 2012, at precisely 11:11 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time. So when Dutch, as he was known in the clubhouse, phones in to ESPN 950’s Mike Missanelli Show in May, it figures to be a circus of an interview, complete with Doctor Doolittle jokes and maybe even a caller imitating E.T. After 13 years as a host at 610 WIP, Philadelphia’s undisputed and mostly unchallenged number one sports talk station, Missanelli knows how the game is played.
“How ya doin’, Dutch?” he says to start things off.
“Right on, Mike,” says Daulton, warmly. “How you doin’, brother?” The plan seems to be working: Start off chummy, and set him up for the fall. In a minute or two, Daulton will spew metaphysical theory, and Missanelli will call him crazy, or maybe question his manhood, as he once did with Eagles kicker David Akers on the air. Missanelli makes small talk about Daulton’s sons and asks about the ’93 team’s rocky relationship with the media. Then talk turns to Daulton’s former teammate, Lenny Dykstra, who has surprisingly become something of a stock-picking savant since his retirement.
“We all have other sides, man,” Daulton says, setting himself up for a high hard one. “You just don’t want to believe it. That’s like you guys calling me a kook when I came out with my metaphysical stuff.”
“You can see,” says Missanelli, “where Philadelphia fans that looked at you as the heart and soul of the 1993 rapscallion Phillies would kinda roll their eyes, right?”
Why, Dutch? Why? This is where you’d expect the host to segue into ridicule or, given Missanelli’s blustery past, maybe even self-righteous anger. The last time we heard from Missanelli, two years ago, he was squaring off with a guy during a WIP broadcast at Brownies 23 East in Ardmore. When he went on the air at 10 a.m., the bar was filled with St. Patrick’s Day revelers who’d already chugged enough Guinness to be bombed. His temper got the best of him, and co-workers had to pull him away before he tore a tormentor to pieces. Unfortunately for Missanelli, the object of his aggression wasn’t a drunken Eagles fan. It was his own producer. The throw-down wasn’t the only time Missanelli went all Bill Bixby on someone, transforming from mild-mannered host to Hulk in seconds. It’s why, three days after the Brownies incident, Missanelli was fired, making for some juicy gossip-column fodder and, one would presume, a few laughs from Howard Eskin, his onetime co-host and longtime nemesis.
Today, though, instead of attacking Daulton, even verbally, Missanelli lets the ballplayer speak about how he’s disappointed that his thoughts on baseball are respected, but his insights into other dimensions are not. Daulton genuinely considers himself an expert on both, something we probably wouldn’t have gleaned if Missanelli had taken the low road and antagonized him.