Tuesday, February 24, 2009

#41 & 42 -- Tommy Davis & "In Action"

Tommy Davis

Tommy is kind of in between careers here. Tommy got off to one of the best starts to a career you’ll ever see with the Dodgers. He won the batting title in 1962-63 and had 153 RBI in 1962. Anybody starting to think about Albert Pujols. Unfortunately, Tommy bunged up his ankle breaking up a double play in 1965 and he was never the same. He could still hit, but he couldn’t take a spot in the field. He bounced around – Mets, hitless wonder White Sox, Pilots, Astros then to the A’s and Cubs a couple of times each. He also had a reputation of not being a hard worker, and is quoted as saying, “The lazier I feel, the better I hit.” In 1971 he must have felt pretty lazy because he hit .324 for the A’s in 79 games. They were trying to hide him at first base, but it’s hard to keep a guy around that makes 3 errors at first base in 35 games.

It looked like he was done, as the A’s released him at the end of Spring Training 1972. I'm sure that coupled with the strike caused more than a few anxious moments for Tommy. He didn’t catch on with anyone until the Cubs signed him in July. They kept him for 6 weeks and then traded him to the Orioles. Tommy has a look in his regular card that he remembers the guy that played for the Dodgers in the early 60’s and he knows he can do it, but he can’t stay in the field enough to get regular at bats. He seems a little sad to me.

The Orioles must have made the trade in August 1972 knowing about the rule change on the horizon because Tommy Davis was made to be a DH. The Orioles installed him as their DH and he hit .306 with 89 RBI. He was the regular DH from 1972-75 and was one of the best early DH’s. The O’s released him after 1975, when he was still hitting .283, but they didn't have a regular DH after that. Tommy tried to hang on, but he was released in Spring Training by the Yankees and played for the Angels and Royals, but hit an empty .265 without any homer or doubles power. It was the end of the line, but he had quite a career.

With the advent of box scores on the internet it's sometimes possible to pinpoint where in a particular game a photo is taken. On the action card, I can't get any closer than the date. Tommy's wearing a road uniform and the only time he played first in Yankee Stadium in 1971 was a doubleheader on May 31. It's hard to make out the runner, but it looks more like Roy White than Horace Clarke.

With all the stars the A’s had at this time (Reggie, Catfish, Bando, Rudi, Campaneris, Fingers, Blue, etc.) they give an “in action” card to on older player winding down. That’s kind of nice, and two of those guys listed got "action" cards, but Tommy didn’t really get much action in 1972 between the Cubs and Orioles.

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