Darren Daulton had an auspicious beginning to his Major League career, a full decade before he became a household name.

Consider …

The Philadelphia Phillies called up their young catcher late in the 1983 season, and manager Paul Owens plopped the rookie behind the plate for the 10th inning of a Phils victory in St. Louis on September 25.

Then, on October 1, Daulton drew the starting assignment in the last game of the season, at Veterans Stadium against the cross-state Pirates.

In between, on September 28, Daulton was a spectator as the Phillies routed the Chicago Cubs to capture the National League East title.

It must have been a heady ride for the 21-year-old who had spent four years climbing through the Philly pharm system after Philadelphia made him a 25th-round pick in the 1980 MLB Draft.

Not surprisingly, though, that short stay in the bigs wasn’t long enough to land Daulton a rookie card in the 1984 sets, not at a time just before the RC explosion hit the hobby full-force.

That two-game stint wasn’t enough to get Daulton back to the Majors in 1984, either, and he played just 80 games with the Triple-A Portland Beavers that summer.

Find Darren Daulton cards on eBay (affiliate link)

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It was more of the same in 1985 … at least to start. Daulton forced his way to Philly by late April, though, and ended up spending more time (36 games) with the Phillies than with the Beavers (23 games).

Still, that’s not many games, and it left Daulton’s rookie eligibility intact for 1985. It was long enough, though, to finally catch the card makers’ eyes, despite a paltry .204 batting average with just four home runs an 11 RBI.

That next spring, you could pull Daulton rookie cards from wax packs across the board — Topps, Fleer, Donruss.

Dutch garnered more playing time in that summer of 1986, too, but was still a reserve, behind starter John Russell. In fact, it would be another three years before Daulton seized the starting role, and even then, his anemic offensive numbers kept him out of the limelight — Philly’s 67-95 finish didn’t help, either.

Three years after that, though, in 1992, Daulton broke out as the Phillies started to dig out of their hole, putting up a .270/27 HR/109 RBI line to garner his first All-Star nod and send collectors scurrying to dig his rookie cards out of the commons bins.

But it didn’t take long for us to realize that Daulton’s very first MLB card was more likely locked away in a tiny little box than in a monster full of penny cards.

Because, way back in 1985, on the heels of his first (sorta) extended stint with the Phillies, Dalton had made enough of a splash to also make the cut in the second-ever Fleer Update set.

So, if you’re looking for the earliest Dutch sighting on a Major League Baseball card, look no further than card #U-33.

Just like the man himself, it was a gem just waiting to be discovered.

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Hobby Wow!

Of course, the year after Daulton broke out, the Phillies did, too. This eBay listing is sure to bring back memories of that great team and Dutch himself:

It’s a game-used Phillies helmet autographed by Daulton, with a nod to the 1993 All-Star Game.

Check out the full listing on eBay (affiliate link).

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