ATLANTA — Darren Daulton, who played last less half of a season for the Marlins but made a profound impact when the team won its first World Series title in 1997, died Sunday after a four-year battle with brain cancer.
He was 55.
While Daulton spent the bulk of his career with the Philadelphia Phillies, earning a reputation as a strong clubhouse leader, it was with the Marlins — in his final year in the Majors — that he won his first World Series ring.
Former Marlins manager Jim Leyland told Dan LeBatard in 2013 that the team wouldn’t have won the World Series if not for Daulton. Leyland echoed those feelings to others through the years.
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"Jim Leyland told me they don’t win the World Series if it wasn't for Dutch," John Kruk told Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia. "He told me when Dutch stepped in that locker room everyone on that team looked at him and said, 'There's our leader.’”
Daulton’s leadership was one of the reasons the Marlins acquired him in a July 21, 1997, trade with the Phillies for Billy McMillon.
"We got Darren Daulton because we needed a lefthander who could hit,” Leyland said. “We got him because we thought he was still an outstanding player.”
Platooning at first base with Jeff Conine, Daulton hit .262 with three home runs in 52 regular season games for the Marlins following the mid-season trade. In the World Series against Cleveland, Daulton went 7 for 18 with a home run.
Daulton spent his 14 seasons as the Phillies’ catcher.
In a statement Sunday, Phillies chairman Emeritus Bill Giles called Daulton a “true leader of men,” and spoke about his perseverance as a player.
“The Phillies would not have gone to the 1993 World Series without his leadership,” Giles said. “In addition to being an outstanding clubhouse leader, he was also a fighter. He battled through five knee operations to become an All-Star. I really enjoyed watching him for 14 years in uniform. Darren was a super human being. His teammates loved him, I loved him like he was one of my own. In fact, he called me ‘Uncle Bill.'”
The Marlins also expressed their condolences in a team-issued statement:
“The Marlins organization wishes to express our deepest sympathy and sadness over the passing of 1997 World Series champion Darren Daulton.”
Daulton’s final game was Game 7 of the ’97 World Series, when the Marlins defeated the Cleveland Indians in extra innings.