Eric Davis (baseball)
May 29, 1962 |
Los Angeles, California
|May 19, 1984, for the Cincinnati Reds|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 7, 2001, for the San Francisco Giants|
|Runs batted in||934|
|Career highlights and awards|
Eric Keith Davis (born May 29, 1962) is a former center fielder for several Major League Baseball teams. Davis was 21 years old when he broke into the big leagues on May 19, 1984 with the Cincinnati Reds, the team for which he is most remembered. Blessed with a rare combination of excellent foot speed and bat speed, Davis became the first major league player to hit at least 30 home runs and steal at least 50 bases in the same season in 1987.
A series of injuries derailed his career as he moved to the Dodgers and then the Tigers, and he retired in 1994. In 1996, Davis successfully restarted his baseball career with the Reds and was named the comeback player of the year. He moved to the Baltimore Orioles and, despite fighting colon cancer, he had one of his best statistical seasons in 1998. Injuries again slowed Davis over the next few seasons and he retired for good in 2001.
Along with other business interests, Davis currently works as a roving instructor in the Reds organization.
When Eric Davis first appeared in 1984, his physical talents gave him the potential to be one of the most exciting players in the game. He was a rare five-tool player with home run power as well as sheer speed on the basepaths. He made a habit of robbing home runs and elicited comparisons to Willie Mays.
Davis showed what he could do in 1986 hitting .277 with 27 homers and stealing 80 bases. He and Rickey Henderson remain the only players in major league history to be members of the "20/80 club". He built on that success by hitting .293 with 37 homers and 50 steals in 1987, despite playing in only 129 games. From 1986 to 1990, he averaged 30 home runs and 40 steals. During this time he was one of the game's most exciting players and a very visible superstar player. He drew some MVP support every year in 1986–90, finishing in the top 15 in the voting every year. In 1986–89 he also finished in the NL's top 10 in home runs, slugging percentage, and OPS each year. While he had some other good seasons later in his career, injuries prevented him from reaching this type of peak again. In 1990, with a solid team around him, Davis was a key player in Cincinnati's "wire-to-wire" championship season.
One of Davis' most famous moments was when he homered off Oakland's Dave Stewart in his first World Series at bat in 1990. The home run triggered a World Series sweep for the Reds. While diving for a ball during game 4 of the Series, Davis suffered a lacerated kidney which required surgery. He also underwent off-season surgery on a knee that he had injured earlier in the season.
After 1990, Davis was unable to get his career back on track. Injuries sabotaged his play in 1991 and he was traded to Los Angeles for Tim Belcher and John Wetteland. He suffered several more injuries in 1992 and was largely ineffective.
On August 23, 1993, the Dodgers dealt Davis to the Detroit Tigers for a player to be named later. One week later the Tigers sent pitcher John DeSilva to the Dodgers to complete the trade. The Tigers, who in 1993 had one of the top offenses in the majors, were seeking to upgrade one of their few weaknesses, the center field position. Davis, who replaced Milt Cuyler, batted relatively well in 29 games down the stretch with the Tigers, batting fifth or sixth and finishing with an adjusted OPS of 142. Davis was expected to be the Tigers' primary center fielder in 1994, but injuries limited him to just 37 games and batting average of just .183. Following the strike-shortened 1994 season, Davis was granted free agency by the Tigers and chose to retire.
After recuperating for one season, he felt healthy enough to return to baseball with Cincinnati in 1996. He had a solid season with a .287 average and 26 home runs, although injuries cut into his playing time. He had played well enough, however, to convince Baltimore to sign him as a free agent.
Cancer diagnosis and recovery
In May 1997, Davis was diagnosed with colon cancer. He vowed to return that season, although most felt that it would be unlikely that he could recover in time and was forced to have an ileo-anal pouch. By September, while he was still in treatment, Davis returned to the team. His cancer treatment left him tired but he worked very hard to regain his form. Davis was well enough to hammer a game-winning home run in the 1997 American League Championship Series. After the season, he was given the Roberto Clemente Award. He serves as an honorary board member of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
Davis was brought back for 1998 and went on to have one of his best seasons, batting .327, the 4th best average in the AL, and hitting 28 homers. He also hit in 30 consecutive games that season.
End of playing career and legacy
1999 would be the beginning of the end for Davis. He spent three injury-plagued seasons with St. Louis and San Francisco before retiring in 2001.
In 1999, Davis wrote his autobiography, Born to Play, in which he credited Pete Rose for having faith in him and teaching him about the game. He also had harsh words for Ray Knight, who was the Reds manager in 1996, and with whom Davis had had a memorable on-field fight in 1986. He claimed Knight did not support his comeback and did not stand up for him in contract negotiations after the season. Davis remains bitter about the Reds' treatment of him after his World Series injury. Davis was left behind in Oakland after the series and requested that the Reds provide a private plane to bring him back to Cincinnati. Davis claimed that he was refused a number of times and made his own way home after the hospital released him.
- Twice National League All-Stars (1987, 1989)
- 3-time Gold Glove Award (1987–89)
- Twice Silver Slugger Award (1987, 1989)
- Second in stolen bases (NL 1986, 80 – behind Vince Coleman, 107)
- TSN Comeback Player of the Year Award (1996)
- Roberto Clemente Award (1997)
- Hutch Award (1997)
- Tony Conigliaro Award (1997)
- ESPY Best Comeback Athlete – 1999
- Best season: 1987
- Stole 80 bases in 1986 with 27 homers in only 415 at bats.
- Became the first, and one of only two players ever to hit 25 or more home runs and steal 80 or more bases in a season in 1986 (Rickey Henderson accomplished this feat for the Yankees that same year).
- Became the first, and one of only two players ever to hit 30 or more home runs and steal 50 or more bases in a season in 1987 (Barry Bonds accomplished this feat in 1990)
- Holds the Baltimore Orioles hitting streak record with 30 games in 1998.
- Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame (inducted in 2005)
- 30–30 club
- Hitting for the cycle
- List of top 300 Major League Baseball home run hitters
- List of Major League Baseball leaders in career stolen bases
- List of athletes on Wheaties boxes
- "Rickey Henderson Statistics". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
- Video of the fight can be found here
Autobiography: Born To Play, 1999, ISBN 0-670-88511-8
Documentary/Biography/Instructional: Hitting From the Heart, 2007 http://www.hittingfromtheheart.com/
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Official Eric Davis website
- Eric Davis at Baseball Library
- Eric Davis at PreventCancer.org
- Time Magazine article on Eric Davis (1987)
|National League Player of the Month
April & May 1987