AUGUST 25, 1986
A few years ago, when former major league righthander Ron Darling was considering an offer from the Farrelly Brothers to appear in their flick Shallow Hal with Gwyneth Paltrow, his son Tyler told him, "You have to do it, Dad. She's the bomb." Not one to ignore coaching advice, Darling played a Peace Corps volunteer in the 2001 film and recently shot a scene in which he plays a newscaster in an upcoming thriller tentatively titled Tomorrow, with Sela Ward and Dennis Quaid as costars.
Although the Yale-educated Darling enjoys the Hollywood diversion and has an agent at William Morris keeping an eye out for other possible cameos, he doesn't aspire to become another athlete turned struggling actor. Currently content to chauffeur his two boys (Tyler, 15, and Jordan, 9, whom he has joint custody of with his ex-wife, Toni) around Los Angeles and Blackhawk, Calif., Darling could see himself one day returning to baseball. If so, he says, he'd want to work in a front office. "Maybe somewhere down the road I'll do that with my alma mater, the Mets," says Darling, 42, who retired in 1995 after 13 seasons.
He was inducted into the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame this month, alongside Texas Rangers manager Buck Showalter and 10 others. Darling was the league's MVP in 1980, going 4-3 with a 4.86 ERA and hitting .336 with six homers. "That's the first season I had the confidence that I wasn't just Ivy League good, I was good" he says.
Born in Honolulu and brought up in Millbury, Mass., Darling refers to his Cape Cod days as the "last summer of innocence." He spent 1981 and '82 in the minor leagues and moved up to the majors with the Mets in '83, going 99-70 with a 3.50 ERA over 8� seasons, including the '86 world championship year. Darling, who often played second fiddle to teammate Dwight Gooden, won the Gold Glove in '89 and was the last National League pitcher to receive the award before Greg Maddux began a streak that has now reached 13. After the good times in New York, Darling struggled. He was traded twice in two weeks in 1991—playing only three games for the Montreal Expos before being sent to Oakland. Darling had one winning season for the A's between '91 and '95, and his ERA was 4.63. His decision to retire came down to three simple factors. "I missed my family, I was sick of traveling, and I wasn't that good anymore," he says. "I felt guilty when I was on the road all the time." So Darling went from star pitcher to leisure-time dad—a role that suits him just fine.