The experience is like walking up the three steps on a front stoop to talk to the leader of a neighborhood motorcycle gang. The large men with the juvenile-delinquent hair are waiting. Their eyes appraise the newcomer and do not seem to like what they see. Who is this guy, this civilian? What is he selling? Doesn't he see that we're busy?
"Over here," the leader of this group, Darren (Dutch) Daulton, tells the intruder, who is there, it turns out, to interview him. "This is where we can talk."
Here? The interviewer can feel the other guys' eyes as he moves into the scene. There is a line of five red lockers against the far wall of the Philadelphia Phillies' clubhouse. The residents are Mitch (Wild Thing) Williams, Pete (Inky) Incaviglia, Lenny (Nails) Dykstra, John (Krukie) Kruk and Daulton. All of them are here at three o'clock in the afternoon, four hours before the game, sitting and scratching and smoking cigarettes and talking. What is this interruption? That plan for terrorizing a small town will never be finished if strangers keep coming around.
"What's this story about?" Daulton asks. "I mean, what kind of story is this?"
"It's about...." the interviewer begins.
What is it about? The eyes all stare. Incaviglia has a beard. Kruk has a beard. Williams does not have a beard but also has not shaved in a day or two. The very idea of a story suddenly seems stupid. Any story about any of these guys always does some kind of dance around this offbeat team that won the National League East. Don't those stories tend to merely glamorize the unglamorous, the day-to-day sweat and grind of a hard-hat job? Make something big out of something that really is nothing? A story. Hah! None of those stories ever gets it right.
"The story's about you," the interviewer says to Daulton. "It's about baseball and life and the pennant race and, uh, rock 'n' roll, I guess."
The eyes stare.
"I don't know about the other stuff," says a voice—is it Kruk's?—"but you came to the right place to hear about life."
He is the grand survivor. That is Daulton's story. On this team of outcasts, this collection of other people's cranky spare parts—the lineup has been built through a succession of trades into sort of a baseball version of the old Oakland Raiders everything working in the end—Daulton has taken the toughest road of all. Well actually, there was no road. He has beer here all along.