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Tommy Davis

April 6, 2022

Hugh Atkins

I was saddened to see the news that Tommy Davis passed away. I spoke with Davis back in 2012 following the death of his teammate Don Mincher. What follows is a shortened version of my post from that conversation.

Tommy Davis could just flat-out hit, and despite a major injury, he put together quite a career. Davis, playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, won the National League batting title in 1962 with a .346 average. He also led the league with 230 hits and 153 runs batted in. Amazingly, he wasn’t named the league’s most Valuable Player.

“You know I finished third in the voting,” Davis said. “Third. Not second, but third.”

“Who won that year?” I asked.

“My teammate.”

Maury?”

“Yes.”

“Is that the year he stole 104 bases?”

“Yes.”

“Who finished second?”

Willie Mays.”

© THE TOPPS COMPANY, INC

Davis won another batting title in 1963, and the Dodgers swept the New York Yankees in the World Series. He lost out on the MVP award again, this time to teammate Sandy Koufax.

Davis tailed off to .275 in 1964 and then in 1965 his season ended after only 17 games when he broke his ankle sliding into second base. He bounced back in 1966, hitting .313. After the ’66 season, the Dodgers traded Davis to the New York Mets. I asked him if he was disappointed by the trade.

“The doctors told them (the Dodgers), ‘Give him two years, and after that, you do want you want,'” Davis said. “It would take two years to heal, so you know, yes, I was disturbed because they got rid of me after one year.”

Davis hit 16 home runs, drove in 73 runs, and batted .302 in his only year with the Mets. “I think one of my best years was with the Mets. People don’t realize that.” Despite his solid season in New York, the Mets dealt Davis to the Chicago White Sox in 1968. “I tell you, I contributed to the 1969 World Series. You know they got Tommie Agee for me.”

The Seattle Pilots selected Davis in the 1969 expansion draft. Near the end of that season, the Houston Astros picked him up for the pennant drive. Davis started the 1970 season with Houston, but they traded him to the Oakland Athletics in June, and Oakland traded him to the Chicago Cubs that September.

Davis returned to Oakland in 1971 and then was back with the Cubs at the beginning of the 1972 season. The Cubs sent Davis to the Baltimore Orioles in August. In 1973 the American League adopted the designated hitter, and Davis’ career was reborn. He hit .306 with 89 RBIs in his first year as a full-time DH and followed with two more solid seasons in Baltimore.

Davis’ final season was 1976. He began the year with the California Angels and finished the season with the Kansas City Royals. Davis played for 10 different teams (two of them twice) in 18 years.

Davis was not bitter about how the broken ankle affected his career. “Don’t forget. I still played, what? ’66 to ’76?” Davis said. “They did what they had to do without operating on it; they just closed it up and it healed pretty well. I played another 11 years, so it must have been all right.”

Considering the future Tommy Davis had in front of him when he slid into second base on May 1, 1965, it’s difficult to believe he could look back on his career in such a manner.

Tommy Davis was a heck of a hitter. He seemed like a good guy. He was 83 years old.

(All statistics and transaction information are from Baseball Reference; all quotes are from my telephone conversation with Tommy Davis in March 2012.)

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