Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Willie Davis, 1940-2010. R.I.P.

Willie Davis, the man who patrolled centerfield for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 1960s and early 1970s, was found dead in his Burbank home today. He would have turned 70 next month.

Davis appeared in three World Series with the Dodgers in 1963, 1965 and 1966. When people think of the Dodgers who played under Walter Alston in the 1960s they think of the pitching duo of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. If you think offense on those Dodger teams it is Maury Wills' NL MVP season in 1962 when he set a then NL record with 104 stolen bases. Davis finished a distant second with 32 swipes. Wills led the NL in stolen bases for six consecutive seasons.

But iin Game 5 of the 1965 World Series t was Davis who became the first player in MLB history to steal three bases during a World Series game. On one of the stolen bases he stumbled and fell yet somehow crawled safely into second base. Unfortunately, Davis had a forgettable World Series the following year. He committed three errors in one inning during Game 2 of the 1966 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles.

It was an ironic performance considering Davis would win three consecutive Gold Gloves for his play in center between 1971 and 1973. Davis would also be named to two NL All-Star teams in 1971 and 1973.

After spending 14 seasons with the Dodgers, Davis was traded to the Montreal Expos prior to the 1974 season for pitcher Mike Marshall. Unfortunately for Davis, the Dodgers would win the NL championship in 1974. Marshall would play a key part on that championship team winning the NL Cy Young Award.

Meanwhile, Davis lasted only one season in Montreal. He had stints with the Texas Rangers, St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres before playing two seasons in Japan. He returned to the bigs in 1979 as a bench player with the AL West Division champion California Angels.

Davis finished his career with more than 2,500 hits, nearly 400 stolen bases, a respectable .279 lifetime batting average and two World Series rings. As Ronald Reagan would say, "Not bad. Not bad at all."

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