If you had to pinpoint a moment when Darren Daulton reached the fork in the road and took the one that would eventually lead to having a plaque on the Phillies Wall of Fame, it might just have been the evening of Aug. 13, 1991, at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium.
In the seventh inning, the Phillies had the bases loaded and one out. Down by a run, with Daulton scheduled to hit, manager Jim Fregosi yanked his catcher from the game and sent pinch-hitter Ricky Jordan to the plate. And when Daulton later demanded an explanation, Fregosi pretty much told him it was because he thought Jordan had a better chance of driving in the runs than he did.
The next season he led the National League with 109 RBI. The year after that he knocked in 105 and the worst-to-first Phillies went all the way to the World Series.
But that's only part of the reason he will be honored in a pregame ceremony before the Aug. 6 game against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park.
"Specifically, and especially, for the leadership [he] provided," club president Dave Montgomery noted pointedly.
Daulton also overcame long odds to become a three-time All-Star. He was a 25th-round draft pick in June 1980, the 629th player selected out of tiny Arkansas City, Kan. He also faced a long rehabilitation after a serious knee injury in 1986 and played with painful knees for the remainder of his career.
"The way I was brought up, a little guy from a little town, I always thought you had to work hard for what you got," he said yesterday. "I never perceived myself as anybody, and really don't to this day.
"There was one thing that I always thought I could eliminate. And that was, if I worked my tail off I didn't have to look back if I wasn't able to make it and second-guess myself. That was one of the things I had control of. And when I hurt my knee early in my career, that was a moment when I had to make a decision whether or not I was going to play major league baseball in Philadelphia or not. The things I felt that I had control of, I tried to accomplish them."
Before it was over, he was named the catcher on the All-Vet team with 965 games behind the plate as a Phillie. Overall, he played in 1,109 games in 14 seasons with the Phillies and batted .245 with 134 homers and 567 RBI.
Fregosi also stressed to him the importance of becoming a team leader. Daulton said he wasn't sure if that came naturally, but added: "If I reflect back on my childhood, I was the type of guy who, if I felt something needed to be said, I would say it. If I felt something needed to be done, I would probably do it."
The unveiling of Daulton's plaque in centerfield kicks off the annual Alumni Weekend.