How Darren Daulton, 1993 Phillies became bigger than Disney World

How Darren Daulton, 1993 Phillies became bigger than Disney World

I was 8 years old when my parents were able to afford our first family vacation to Florida.

We were going to Clearwater to see the Phillies, fresh off a 78-84 season, in spring training. My older sister and I couldn't have cared less about that. We had visions of Disney World in our heads.

But something happened on that trip that changed my life forever. It's the reason I'm typing these words right now. Thanks to Darren Daulton and the 1993 Phillies, I fell in love with baseball.

Prior to the first game we attended, we went up to the broadcast booth and talked to Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn (it would be years before I realized the greatness I was in contact with). Harry the K took down our last name and where we were from so he could say it during the broadcast. A family member taped the game for us on their VCR and I can still hear Harry saying, "The Hudricks are here from Bellmawr, New Jersey."

I played little league and would often pretend I was a baseball player, but watching actual baseball games wasn't my idea of fun. In fact, during the aforementioned video, you could see me, pretending to play baseball in the aisle of Jack Russell Stadium while the Phillies were playing the Twins. It was actually during a workout fans were allowed to attend that baseball took hold of me and didn't let go.

It's almost unfathomable how easy it was to access professional athletes back then. Especially the Phillies, who had finished above .500 only once since reaching the World Series in 1983. The excitement for the Fightin' Phils wasn't exactly at a fever pitch. As a kid, baseball players didn't seem like real people. When I got to see them up close and personal (and not in the 700 level of the Vet), I was in awe.

I watched as the players took batting practice, launching balls over the fence, crushing line drives to the outfield. My sister and I eagerly awaited autographs from these mythical figures.

Larry Andersen was a crowd favorite, joking around with all the kids. Guys like Tommy Greene and Mickey Morandini were always willing to sign a baseball or two. But there was one clear star: Darren Daulton.

I'm not sure the phrase "women want him, men want to be him" fit another human being better than Dutch. My dad loved his style of play and smooth, left-handed swing. My mom had to fan herself off as he approached my sister and me to sign our baseballs. Daulton had a really cool, movie star-like signature. He just had this air about him. He was a rock star but played the game like he was the 25th guy on the roster.

When it came time to plan our next vacation, there was no doubt we would be back in Clearwater. This time around, the crowds were insane. It was tough to get autographs and get as much access to players. But we still found a way to get two cool pieces of memorabilia: one of Dutch's bats — the story of how the bat got into our possession is a family secret, which I won't reveal ... if anyone asks, I obtained the bat totally legitimately — and a batting glove.

The trips to Clearwater became a family tradition so I couldn't tell you the exact year the batting glove happened. Whenever Daulton was done taking BP, he'd throw them into the stands. As the crowds got bigger at Jack Russell, this was Daulton's alternative to signing every single autograph. After one session, the batting gloves were tossed in my direction. An older gentleman also reached for the all-red glove with "10" written on it, but to his credit, the guy let go when he saw a spiky haired kid with gold frame glasses and buck teeth also reaching for it.

It was these experiences and interactions that formed my love of baseball and sports in general. I gradually turned into a sports junkie. When I was eight, my dad explained to me that people get paid money to watch baseball games and write about them. I decided then — yes, at 8 years old — that I wanted to be a sportswriter.

And here we are.

I can't tell you a single thing we did in Disney World during that first vacation, but Darren Daulton and the 1993 Phillies captured my heart forever.

MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs

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MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs


LOS ANGELES -- Justin Turner hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

The red-bearded slugger connected on the 29th anniversary of the Dodgers' last game-ending postseason homer: Kirk Gibson's famous pinch-hit drive to beat Oakland in the 1988 World Series opener.

"One of my earliest baseball memories, I was 4 years old at my grandma's house watching that game in `88 and seeing Gibby hit that homer," a smiling Turner said. "So yeah, it feels pretty cool. I thought about doing the fist pump around the bases, but we'll wait until we get to the World Series for that, hopefully."

Turner drove in every run for Los Angeles, going the other way for a tying single in the fifth before sending a long shot to center field off John Lackey in the ninth. A fan wearing a blue Dodgers jersey reached over a railing to catch the ball on the fly.

Turner's second homer of the postseason ended another dramatic night for the Dodgers, who remained unbeaten in these playoffs and moved within two wins of their first World Series appearance since 1988.

"It's very cool, and J.T., we were talking about it in there after the game," manager Dave Roberts said. "Twenty-nine years to the day. It was special. Our guys feel it."

Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Midseason acquisition Yu Darvish starts for the Dodgers against Kyle Hendricks.

Yasiel Puig drew his third walk of the game leading off the ninth, and Charlie Culberson bunted him to second. After losing pitcher Brian Duensing struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, Chicago manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen for the 38-year-old Lackey, who pitched on consecutive days for the first time in his 15-year career.

Lackey got the call over All-Star closer Wade Davis, and the veteran starter walked Chris Taylor on six tense pitches.

Turner stepped up and ended it with his fourth career playoff homer. He's been at his best in October, batting .377 with 22 RBIs in the postseason.

"We've been doing it all year long," Turner said. "We're never out of a game. As long as we have outs left, we're going to keep fighting."

Completing the poetry of the moment, a fan in a Chase Utley jersey in the center-field bleachers caught the ball in his glove.

Addison Russell homered in the fifth for the Cubs, who are down early in this rematch of the 2016 NLCS. Chicago won that series in six games and went on to its first World Series championship since 1908, while the Dodgers have been absent from the Fall Classic since 1988.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen got the victory with a hitless ninth despite hitting Anthony Rizzo on the hand with a one-out pitch. That ended the Los Angeles bullpen's impressive streak of 22 straight Cubs retired to begin the NLCS, but the Dodgers have thrown eight hitless and scoreless innings of relief in the NLCS.

After a collective offensive effort drove the Dodgers to a 5-2 win in Game 1, Turner did it all in Game 2. He has 10 RBIs in the Dodgers' five postseason games, getting five in the playoff opener against Arizona.

Jon Lester yielded three hits and five walks while failing to get out of the fifth inning in the shortest start of his long postseason career, but the Dodgers couldn't take advantage of a rare shaky night by the Cubs' star left-hander.

Rich Hill struck out eight in five more impressive innings for the Dodgers, but he was pulled for pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson in the fifth in a debatable decision by Roberts.

Russell was off to a 4-for-22 start in the postseason with nine strikeouts before the slugging shortstop put a leadoff homer into the short porch in left field.

Turner evened it moments later by poking a single to right after a leadoff double by Culberson, the Dodgers' improbably successful replacement for injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager.

The Dodgers chased Lester with two outs in the fifth, but reliever Carl Edwards Jr. came through after several recent postseason struggles, striking out pinch-hitter Chase Utley and then pitching a strong sixth.

Lester was the co-MVP of last season's NLCS, winning Game 5 at Dodger Stadium and yielding two runs over 13 innings in the series. He had nothing near the same success against the Dodgers' revamped lineup in this one, issuing four walks in the first four innings and repeatedly escaping jams.

Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward held up Turner in the third when it appeared he could have scored from first on Cody Bellinger's double to the gap.

Javier Baez, the other co-MVP of last season's NLCS for Chicago, got to third base in the third with one out but also was stranded.

Up next
Cubs: Hendricks dominated Chicago's playoff opener with seven scoreless innings against the Nationals, but yielded four runs in four innings during the team's wild Game 5 victory in Washington. He is starting on normal rest.

Dodgers: Darvish was outstanding in Game 3 against the Diamondbacks, earning his first career postseason victory with seven strikeouts over five innings of two-hit ball. He was acquired 

MLB Playoffs: Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

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MLB Playoffs: Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

HOUSTON — Jose Altuve raced home on Carlos Correa's double in the ninth inning, Justin Verlander struck out 13 in a complete game and the Houston Astros beat the New York Yankees 2-1 Saturday for a 2-0 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Correa also homered, but Houston needed a daring dash from Altuve to get Verlander a win. The 5-foot-6 AL MVP front-runner reached with a one-out single against closer Aroldis Chapman , then sprinted around from first base on Correa's shot to right-center field, sliding past catcher Gary Sanchez as he misplayed a short-hop. Altuve had two more hits and is 13 for 23 (.565) this postseason.

Verlander pitched another gem for the Astros, setting a postseason career best for strikeouts and allowing five hits in his second career complete game in the postseason. He threw a season-high 124 pitches and retired baby Bronx Bombers Aaron Judge, Sanchez and Greg Bird in the top of the ninth.

In the bottom of the inning, Judge picked up Correa's hit in right field and threw toward second base. Shortstop Didi Gregorius fielded there, and his throw beat Altuve to the plate by a few steps. But Sanchez bobbled the one-hop as Altuve slid by, and the Astros mobbed Correa in shallow center field. Altuve pointed toward Correa and his teammates from behind the plate (see full recap).

Puig, Taylor power Dodgers past Cubs in NLCS Game 1
LOS ANGELES -- Chris Taylor hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning, Yasiel Puig added a homer and an RBI double to his dynamite postseason, and the Los Angeles Dodgers overcame a short start by Clayton Kershaw for a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night in the NL Championship Series opener.

Charlie Culberson doubled, drove in the tying run and scored another while replacing injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager for the resourceful Dodgers, who improved to 4-0 in this postseason.

With another collective offensive effort and four innings of perfect relief pitching, Los Angeles calmly overcame an early two-run deficit and took the first game of this rematch of the 2016 NLCS, won in six games by Chicago on the way to its first World Series championship in 108 years.

Game 2 is Sunday, with Rich Hill starting at home against Chicago's Jon Lester (see full recap).