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Willie Davis remembered

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Growing up in Orange County, I was often asked why I favored the Dodgers more than the Angels, and I sometimes explained in part by using this story involving Willie Davis:

I had an aunt who lived in Garden Grove and was a huge Angels fan, and she was always pestering my father and me to go see her favorite team. Finally, we did.

The Angels were playing the Washington Senators, as bad of a team as there was in baseball. The Angels weren’t very good either, but they liked to brag about their ‘star’ shortstop, Jim Fregosi.

I was in grade school, so the memory has faded a little, but it seems as if it was late in the game when Fregosi hit a pop-up high over the infield. About three of the Senators, being the Senators, gingerly approached a spot between the third-base line and the pitcher’s mound where they gauged it would land. And it did ... land -- between the three of them.

But Fregosi, half walking, half jogging down the line, was nearly thrown out at first base anyway.

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Stunned at his lack of hustle, I turned to my father for his opinion.

He didn’t say much, just sadly wagging his head and offering: ‘Willie Davis would have been standing at third.’

Heck yeah, he would have.

Davis could be a circus in the outfield -- even I remember his errors in that 1966 World Series game, and I was only 6 -- but he was among the most exciting players in baseball. If anything, he hustled a little too much, tried a little too hard.

To me, though, he’ll always embody one reason that in my childhood I favored the L.A. team over the hometown Angels: Visions of one of my favorite players sliding into third, beating out a bunt or diving around the outfield.

-- Mike Hiserman


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