A lot more than years have passed since the Phillies' magical summer of 1993, when a couple of guys nicknamed Dutch and The Dude played the leading roles in an unlikely run to the World Series. In fact, when that group of colorful characters gathers this weekend for a 25-year reunion that will include a tribute during Sunday's game at Citizens Bank Park, it could be considered as much a memorial service as a celebration.
The biggest loss, of course, occurred last summer, when Darren Daulton's battle with brain cancer ended on Aug. 6. He was the leader of that bunch and you can be sure his former Phillies teammates will raise a toast or two in his memory before the weekend is over.
"I would think," said John Kruk, the first baseman on that 1993 team and a member of the Phillies' broadcast team the last two years. "I don't know if we need an excuse [to drink], but that's a good one. Jimmy, too. And Vuke and Mel and Pods."
Jim Fregosi, the manager who hit all the right buttons during that 1993 season, died in 2014, and three of his coaches – John Vukovich, Johnny Podres, and Mel Roberts — are all deceased, too.
"They were all part of this," Kruk said. "We were all on the same page with what we wanted to accomplish that year, so, yeah, this is tough. Very bittersweet. You want it to be a celebration of what we did as a team, but I just have a weird feeling about this one. I know that those guys would want it to be a celebration and that's kind of like the only reason you feel like you want to be a part of it."
Kruk is not alone in feeling the giant void left by Daulton's death.
"Dutch meant a lot to me," said Mickey Morandini, a second baseman on the 1993 team who continues to work with the Phillies in a promotional role. "He was like a father figure. And Fregosi was one of my favorite people. Vuke the same way. It would have been nice to have them here this weekend."
Phillies radio broadcaster Larry Andersen predictably found a way to find humor in it all. That always has been one of his jobs.
"Dutch was the glue," Andersen said. "Who knows what is going to happen with him not being here? We'll probably be like 25 guys running around like chickens with their heads chopped off. These guys won't know what to do without their leader."
Besides Daulton, the only other deceased player from the 1993 Phillies is Juan Bell, the opening-day shortstop who was placed on waivers after just 46 games. He died in 2016.
A number of other key figures from the 1993 Phillies will not be in attendance Sunday either. Terry Mulholland has "disappeared from the grid." according to some of his former teammates, and Mitch Williams has declined the Phillies' invitation.
The most noteworthy absentee will be Lenny Dykstra, the only member of the team who was an uninvited guest by the Phillies. Even before his most recent arrest last month in North Jersey on charges of making terroristic threats against an Uber driver and drug possession, the Phillies decided they did not want Dykstra in attendance.
Dykstra, of course, was the best player on the 1993 team, hitting .305 with a major-league-leading 194 hits, 129 walks, and 143 runs scored. He finished second to Barry Bonds in the MVP voting. That was the end of his greatness on the field, and since retiring from baseball, Dykstra has served prison time for bankruptcy fraud, grand theft auto, and money laundering. He also declared bankruptcy in 2009 and has admitted to using steroids during his time with the Phillies.
Dykstra's life after baseball has been a train wreck, but it's difficult to tell his former teammates to stop caring about him.
"I understand why Lenny is not here," Kruk said. "I wish he was. But I can completely understand why he's not here. But as an offensive player, just having him in front of you in the lineup was different. He would tell you, 'Sit and watch because you're going to see every pitch.' And then he'd go and have an eight or nine-pitch at-bat that ended with a walk or a hit. We didn't have to watch video. We watched Lenny."
Ever since then, however, they have watched Dykstra self-destruct, and in some ways it must be almost as painful as watching Daulton battle brain cancer.
"No," Kruk said. "Lenny is not here because of mistakes he has made. Darren didn't choose his fate. It kind of chose him."
Andersen said a number of Dykstra's teammates have tried to help him because it's obvious that substance abuse is playing a major role in the former centerfielder's demise.
"I know for a fact that there are former teammates that have reached out and offered it, and you can only help those that want to help themselves," Andersen said. "You can offer all you want, but if somebody doesn't want to help themselves it's all for naught. I think the help that has been offered has been rescinded. It wasn't one offer either. This was over the years, and at some point you just can't do it anymore."
Kruk said he last saw Dykstra at Daulton's funeral in Florida. He said the two men had a normal conversation about baseball and their lost friend. Before the funeral, Dykstra showed his emotions to the world in the most common of 21st-century way: through a Facebook video tribute to Daulton.
"All of us," wish Dykstra would get help, Kruk said. "I wish it would happen. Non-baseball people who are my friends read about the stuff that he has done and think, 'What the hell is wrong with that guy?' I tell them, 'I don't know what's wrong with him, but all I know is when the spikes got laced up, he was one of the smartest damn people I ever met.' "
Darren "Dutch" Daulton was the unquestioned leader during the Phillies' captivating run to the 1993 National League pennant, and Lenny "The Dude" Dykstra was baseball's quintessential leadoff hitter that season.
Neither man will be here Sunday when that special season is remembered. Daulton's death at the age of 55 was a tragedy that no one will deny. You can be critical of Dykstra's self-destructive behavior if you like. That's entirely fair. It does not make it any less sad for the people who lived through the amazing accomplishments of the Phillies' 1993 season.