Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and let’s get to No. 24 in our countdown.
The 25 greatest Dodgers, No. 24: Tommy Davis (No first-place votes, 3,809 points)
For two seasons, you could argue that Tommy Davis was the best player in the National League. In 1962, he finished third in MVP voting (behind teammate Maury Wills and Willie Mays of the Giants) after leading the NL with a .346 batting average, 240 hits and 153 RBIs. The RBIs are still a team record, the 240 hits a Dodgers record for a right-hander, and the .346 average is second to Mike Piazza‘s .362 in 1997 for the highest average in L.A. Dodger history.
What explains his big 1962 season? “Maury had his banner year and was MVP,” Davis told The Times in 2010. “[Jim] Gilliam did his job, and I think should be in the Hall of Fame. Willie Davis was hitting in front of me, batting third. We had a lot of speed in front of me. And then big Frank Howard hitting behind me. So, the formula was there for me to be successful. I got a lot of good pitches to hit.“We were very disappointed [we lost a playoff series to the Giants], but we redeemed ourselves the next year when we got to the World Series, played the Yankees and beat ’em four in a row.”
In 1963, he followed up by leading the NL in hitting again with a .326 average. Those are still the only two times an L.A. Dodger has led the league in batting average.
Davis never reached the heights of those two seasons again. After a solid but unspectacular 1964, he broke and dislocated his right ankle early in the 1965 season while sliding, missing a chance to play in another World Series for L.A.
“As I approached the bag I did a crossover step with my left leg and the back spike of my right leg caught in the clay and turned my foot completely around,” Davis said in 2010. [Gaylord] Perry dove to tag me and I never felt it. I was in shock. [Dodger trainer] Wayne Anderson came on the field and snapped my foot back in place right on the basepath.... Lou Johnson took my place and became the hero of the World Series. I can’t be bitter about it. I broke an ankle.... But what the heck, maybe that wasn’t supposed to be.”
Davis rebounded to hit .313 in 1966, but was traded to the New York Mets after the season and spent the rest of his career bouncing from team to team. He retired after the 1976 season.
For more on the life of Tommy Davis read this excellent article.
Note: A reminder, I received 8,382 ballots from newsletter readers who sent me their choices as the top 10 Dodgers of all time. Points were assigned based on ranking, with the first-place choice getting 12 points, second place getting 10, third place eight, down to one point for 10th place. After tabulating the ballots, I will be presenting the top 25 in points. We will be counting down Nos. 25-11, one each weekday, for the next three weeks. Then we will time the top 10 so No. 1 unveils on March 29, the day the season opens. There will be separate newsletters for any news that comes out of spring training.
Pitchers and catchers arrive Tuesday!