|Born: March 21, 1976|
|Died: February 15, 2002 (aged 25)|
|May 23, 1999, for the San Diego Padres|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 7, 2001, for the San Diego Padres|
|Runs batted in||67|
Michael Curtis Darr (March 21, 1976 – February 15, 2002) was a Major League Baseball outfielder who played from 1999 through 2001 for the San Diego Padres. He was the son of Mike Darr, Sr., who pitched in one game for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977. Darr batted left-handed but threw right-handed.
Born and raised in Corona, California, Darr was a second-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 1994. Traded to the San Diego Padres before the 1997 season, he made his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut with the team in 1999. After playing 58 games with the Padres in 2000, Darr was named the team's Opening Day right fielder in 2001, serving as the everyday player at that position until August.
During 2002 spring training, Darr and fellow Padre minor leaguer Duane Johnson were killed in a single-car accident in Peoria, Arizona. Darr, the driver, had a blood alcohol content over the legal limit and was not wearing a seat belt. He was buried at the Crestlawn Memorial Park in Riverside, California, and the Padres wore a black patch with the number 26 on it on their uniforms for the rest of the 2002 season as a tribute to Darr.
Michael Curtis Darr was born on March 21, 1976, in Corona, California. His father, Mike Darr, Sr., pitched in one game for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977. Growing up, the younger Darr was good friends with Darrin Chiaverini, a future National Football League player and coach, and with Duane Johnson, an eventual minor league baseball player and the son of UCLA assistant football coach Don Johnson. While at Corona High School, Darr began to struggle with substance abuse. He went to live with the Johnson family, and the elder Johnson took Darr to counseling, which helped him overcome his drug addiction. Darr graduated from high school in 1994 and married his high school sweetheart, Natalie.
Detroit Tigers organization (1994–96)
In 1994, Darr was a second-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers. He began his professional career with the Bristol Tigers of the rookie-level Appalachian League, batting .275 with 23 runs scored, 41 hits, one home run, and 18 runs batted in (RBI). He advanced to the Fayetteville Generals of the Single-A South Atlantic League in 1995, batting .289 with 58 runs scored, 114 hits, five home runs, and 66 RBI in 112 games. In 1996, he played in 85 games for the Lakeland Tigers of the Single-A advanced Florida State League, batting .248 with 26 runs scored, 77 hits, no home runs, and 38 RBI in 85 games. Late in 1997 spring training, he was traded to the San Diego Padres with Matt Skrmetta for Jody Reed on March 22.
San Diego Padres
Single-A advanced and Double-A (1997–98)
Darr remained at the Single-A advanced level with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the California League in 1997. This time, he hit 15 home runs. He ranked among the California League leaders with a .344 batting average (fourth behind Mike Stoner's .358, Mike Mitchell's .350, and Todd Wilson's .345), 104 runs scored (third behind Stoner's 115 and Tim Garland's 106), 179 hits (second behind Stoner's 203), and 94 RBI (seventh). He also stole 23 bases, getting caught only seven times.
In 1998, Darr spent the year with the Double-A Mobile BayBears of the Southern League. He hit six home runs and finished among the league leaders with a .310 batting average (eighth), 105 runs scored (second to Gabe Kapler's 113), 162 hits (fourth behind Kapler's 176, Carlos Lee's 166, and Robert Fick's 164), and 90 RBI (sixth). Darr ranked sixth in the league with 28 stolen bases, only getting caught eight times.
In the Minors and the Majors (1999–2000)
Darr began the 1999 season with the Triple-A Las Vegas Stars of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) but was promoted to the Padres in May. He made his major league debut on May 23, pinch-hitting for Rubén Rivera and striking out in the ninth inning of a 6–2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Starting in right field against the Arizona Diamondbacks the following day, he got his first major league hit, a single against Andy Benes in a 6–5 loss. Facing the Oakland Athletics in an interleague game on June 8, he hit his first major league home run, a solo affair against Tim Hudson as the Padres won 5–3. After making several starts for San Diego in right field, he was sent back to Las Vegas on June 13 when Tony Gwynn came off the disabled list. In 100 PCL games, he batted .298 with 57 runs scored, 114 hits, 10 home runs, 62 RBI, and 10 stolen bases (in 13 attempts). A September callup by the Padres, he was used as a defensive replacement in right field for much of the final month of the major league season. In 25 games for San Diego, Darr batted .271 with six runs scored, 13 hits, two home runs, and three RBI.
Darr played in five games in April 2000 for the Padres but spent most of the season's first four months with Las Vegas. In 91 games for Las Vegas, he batted .344 with 79 runs scored, 126 hits, nine home runs, 65 RBI, and 13 stolen bases in 22 tries. He was recalled by San Diego after the July 31 trade deadline, as the Padres dealt Al Martin, creating a vacancy in the outfield. For the rest of the year, Darr started in right field for the Padres. In his first game back, on August 1, he hit a two-run home run against Robert Person in San Diego's 10–9 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Darr played 58 games for the Padres in his second major league season, batting .268 with 21 runs scored, 55 hits, one home run, 30 RBI, and nine stolen bases in 10 attempts.
Full season in the major leagues (2001)
For the first time in his career in 2001, Darr was the Opening Day right fielder for the Padres. From May 2 to 23, he was on the disabled list. On June 7, he had four hits and four RBI in a 10–7 victory over the San Francisco Giants. He began getting fewer starts in August and played sparingly in September, losing playing time to Bubba Trammell. Though he had skill defensively, Darr was not a power hitter. He only hit two home runs in 2001, but both were game-winners. On August 16, his two-run, eighth-inning home run against Rick White of the New York Mets pushed San Diego to the lead in their 6–5 win. Against the Giants in the 10th inning of a tie game on September 22, he hit a pinch-hit walkoff home run against Brian Boehringer, giving San Diego a 4–3 win. In 2001, Darr appeared in 105 games, compiling a .277 average with two home runs and 34 RBI.
The Padre fans hoped that Darr would be one of several young players who would help the franchise become a winner in the near future. On February 15, 2002, Darr was involved in a single-car accident in Peoria, Arizona during spring training. He was the driver of the vehicle, and his blood alcohol content was over the legal limit. Both Darr and Duane Johnson, who were not wearing safety belts, were killed. Minor league pitcher Ben Howard, who had his safety belt on, survived with only minor injuries. Howard would go on to debut with the Padres two months later, and pitch at the major league level for three seasons.
Nearly the entire Padres organization was among the more than 1,500 in attendance at Darr's funeral. Darr was buried at the Crestlawn Memorial Park in Riverside, California. Darr left behind a wife and two sons, Michael Jr. and Matthew. During its 2002 season, the Padres wore a black circle patch with Darr's uniform number 26 on the right sleeve of their uniform. According to baseball historian Frank Russo, "He was known for a great sense of humor and intensity on the playing field, as well as his love of the game."
- List of baseball players who died during their careers
- List of second-generation Major League Baseball players
- "Mike Darr Stats". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
- Russo, Frank (2014). The Cooperstown Chronicles: Baseball's Colorful Characters, Unusual Lives, and Strange Demises. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 234–235. ISBN 978-1-4422-3639-4.
- Henson, Steve (25 September 2002). "Friends to the end". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
- "Mike Darr Minor Leagues Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
- "1997 California League Batting Leaders". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
- "1998 Southern League Batting Leaders". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
- "Mike Darr 1999 Batting Gamelogs". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
- "Cincinnati Reds at San Diego Padres Box Score, May 23, 1999". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
- "San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks Box Score, May 24, 1999". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
- "Oakland Athletics at San Diego Padres Box Score, June 8, 1999". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
- "Transactions". The New York Times. June 14, 1999. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
- "Mike Darr 2000 Batting Gamelogs". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
- "Al Martin Stats". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
- "Philadelphia Phillies at San Diego Padres Box Score, August 1, 2000". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
- "Transactions - May 2001". MLB.com. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
- "San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants Box Score, June 7, 2001". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
- "Mike Darr 2001 Batting Gamelogs". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
- "Bubba Trammell 2001 Batting Gamelogs". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
- "New York Mets at San Diego Padres Box Score, August 16, 2001". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
- "San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres Box Score, September 22, 2001". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
- Fernes, Rob. (February 16, 2002). Padres' Darr dies in car accident. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
- "Ben Howard Stats". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
- "Padres' Organization Remembers Darr". My Plainview. February 19, 2002. Retrieved February 18, 2021.