It was a night intended to honor their most dishonorable. Instead, the Phillies recognized a dozen of their greatest living players. Even in death, Dutch was the best of them.
The team scheduled Pete Rose’s return for this weekend. They planned to put the 1973 NL MVP on the Wall of Fame. As it turns out, MVP also stands for Mostly Verified Pervert. So, the Phillies scrambled and altered the festivities to simply honor former Wall inductees and to recognize the passing of Jim Bunning, Dallas Green, and, especially, Darren Daulton.
The timing of the latest Rose revelation could hardly have been worse for the Phillies. They had to eat a raft of Pete Rose bobbleheads that they planned to distribute Friday. The dolls are moldering in a warehouse in California as the team decides what to do with them.
They then endured Rose’s elephantine absence Saturday. Asked about Rose’s absence, teammate Greg Luzinski recoiled, and growled: “I’m not even going to comment on that.”
Luzinski’s revulsion was representative of his peers, said one Phillies insider. Still, as awkward as things were Saturday night, it could have been worse; but then, last Sunday, Daulton lost his battle with cancer.
Organically, and appropriately, focus shifted to Dutch. Pete Rose weekend turned into a three-day testimonial to Daulton; to his strength, and to his character. The Phillies painted No. 10 on the grass behind the plate. They hung No. 10 from the top of the flagpole. All weekend, they ran video montages on the scoreboard between innings. It was heartbreaking, and heartwarming, and serendipitous.
In his final act, Daulton saved the Phillies from the embarrassment of Pete Rose. It was an act as noble as any other.
“Darren was about love,” said Mike Schmidt, also Rose’s teammate, who spoke on behalf of the Wall alumni.
Saturday night was about love, too. It was not about Pete. Certainly, the Phillies miss Dutch, but they appreciated how his presence deflected the weekend’s shame.
“Tonight was a really special night, to honor their lives,” said Dave Buck, the team’s executive vice president. “Sometimes, life works out funny that way.”
No Phillie would have had the effect that Dutch had this weekend. Daulton played well, and hard, and hurt, but he did much more for his rowdy teammates. He carried their sins on his shoulders. He was their confessor and their counselor. He was gorgeous and kind and strong and sincere, almost mythical in his carriage. He had failings, true, but, at his core, he was the anti-Pete.
Court documents revealed July 31 that Rose admitted to having a sexual relationship over several years with a high school-age girl in Ohio who said she was as young as 14 when the relationship began. Rose, who was married at the time, admitted to having sex with the girl. His defense: He thought she was 16, not 14.
The documents were filed as part of a defamation lawsuit Rose filed against John Dowd, who investigated Rose for gambling in the 1980s. In a radio interview on a West Chester radio station in 2015, Dowd claimed that his gambling investigation also revealed that Rose routinely had sex with girls who were 12 to 14 years old.
Those allegations weren’t enough to deter the Phillies from inducting Rose. That in itself is unfortunate, but that’s also another discussion.
Phillies fans had long petitioned to get Rose on the Wall, but, in 1989, Rose agreed to a lifetime ban for betting on baseball. The commissioner’s office reviewed his case in 2015 and upheld the ban, but it also ruled that teams wishing to host him for honors could petition the commissioner.
The Reds got permission in 2015. They retired Rose’s No. 14 and inducted him into their Hall of Fame. This past June, they hosted Rose at the unveiling of a statue in his likeness. Rose, a Cincinnati native, played for the Reds from 1963 to 1978, then again from 1984 to 1986. He played with the Phillies from 1979 to 1983 and helped them win their first World Series, in 1980. They waited for the Reds to honor Rose first. As it turns out, Rose will probably never be honored again, by anyone, anywhere.
To be fair, the Wall is no gallery of saints; for that matter, Daulton would fail most morality tests. He drank too much, used drugs and was accused of domestic violence, a case that eventually landed him in jail for 2 1/2 months.
There’s a giant difference between Daulton and Rose. Daulton took responsibility for his actions. Daulton never betrayed the integrity of the game. Rose, meanwhile, lied for years about the gambling charges, which looked even worse in the 2015 review. Another difference: Rose allegedly committed serial, statutory rapes, and had sex with a girl he thought was 16.
Nobody thought much about Rose’s baggage Saturday night. Instead, they bathed in the nostalgia of
1993, when, on creaky knees, Daulton led a ragtag team picked to finish last in the division to the top of the league. His play was wonderful; his demeanor, calm; his word, beyond reproach.
He was unimpeachable. He is irreplaceable.
Saturday night, he was as magnificent as ever.