Dodgers Dugout: Remembering Tommy Davis
Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and we have sad news this newsletter.
Tommy Davis, who was mainly a left fielder for the Dodgers from 1959 to 1966 and won batting titles in 1962 and 1963, died Sunday night in Phoenix. He was 83.
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Our own Mike DiGiovanna wrote a nice obituary of him, which you can read here.
“He’s, like, my hero — that’s why I wear No. 12, because of Tommy Davis,” said former Dodger Dusty Baker, now the Houston Astros’ manager. “He was a heck of a player, heck of a hitter. He helped me out as a player when he was on the Orioles.
“I remember he used to always tell me, ‘You’ve got to sit to hit.’ Sometimes when you meet your hero, you’re disappointed, but not with him. He was even a greater guy as a hero than he was as a player.”
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Tommy Davis was born Herman Thomas Davis Jr. on March 21, 1939 in Brooklyn. Naturally, he grew up a Dodgers fan. He was all set to sign with the New York Yankees in 1956 when a phone call from Jackie Robinson changed his mind.
“I don’t remember what Jackie talked about. Probably the advantages of signing with the Dodgers,” Davis said in a 2011 interview. “The important thing was that he took the time to call. I was going to sign with the Yankees on a Tuesday night. Instead I signed with the Dodgers on a Tuesday afternoon.”
After getting one at-bat with the Dodgers in 1959, Davis made the team out of spring training in 1960 and hit .276 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs. He followed up in 1961 by hitting .278 with 15 homers and 58 RBIs before finally putting himself on the map in 1962.
In 1962, Davis led the league with a .346 average, 230 hits and 153 RBIs. The 153 RBIs remains the Dodgers season high. Second place is Roy Campanella with 142 in 1953. The next highest L.A. Dodger is Matt Kemp with 126 in 2011.
“Starting and playing every day was the key,” Davis said in 2011. “Maury [Wills], [Jim] Gilliam and Willie [Davis] all had good years in front of me, and Frank Howard behind me hit 31 bombs, so I saw a lot of fastballs. [Ron] Fairly was always pissed off. He said after Howard and I were done there was no one left for him to drive in.”
Davis followed that up by hitting .326 in 1963, again leading the league. He hit .400 in the World Series, where the Dodgers swept the Yankees.
He had a good year in 1964, though not near as good as the previous two seasons, and was looking to rebound in 1965 when he suffered a devastating setback.
On May 1 against the Giants, Davis slid into second base and broke his ankle. “I was running on the inside of the baseline expecting [Orlando] Cepeda to throw to [José] Pagán,” Davis said slowly. “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. I was in shock. A Dodger trainer came on the field and snapped my foot back in place right on the basepath.”
In the clubhouse “I was feeling pretty good and was thinking maybe it’s not broken. Then Dr. [Robert] Kerlan came to see me and said it felt like a bag of walnuts in my ankle. I said, ‘Oh man, don’t tell me that.’ ”
The Dodgers traded him after the 1966 season to the New York Mets for Ron Hunt and Jim Hickman. He final season was in 1976, with the Angels and Kansas City Royals.
Paul Hirsch and Mark Stewart wrote a great biography a couple of years ago for the Society for American Baseball Research. You can read that bio here.
Opening Day roster
The Dodgers will open the season with 16 pitchers and 12 position players. On Monday, triple-A Oklahoma City announced its roster, and it included Jake Lamb and Kevin Pillar, so we can deduce the 12 position players will be:
As for the pitchers, here’s a prediction:
Phil Bickford is not ready for opening day after having arm soreness. Tommy Kahnle and Caleb Ferguson are also not ready for opening day as they recover from Tommy John surgery. Dustin May and Jimmy Nelson are on the 60-day IL.
The season opener for most teams is Thursday, but not for the Dodgers. They open Friday at Colorado, where they will take on the Rockies at 1 p.m. It will be available on Sportsnet LA and the Dodgers radio network.
Food and drinks
The Dodgers have announced some new food and drink selections at Dodger Stadium this season:
—Funnel fries will be served with chocolate or raspberry syrup and powdered sugar and are available at the Dunkin stand on the field level and Trolly Treats on the loge and reserve levels.
—Louisiana Hot Link, bratwurst, Italian sausage and plant-based bratwurst will be available at the LA on Deck Circle on the field level and reserve level.
—Spiral potatoes with salt and pepper, garlic, mesquite, tajin, cotija cheese, and chili lime aioli, or a signature BBQ Burnt Ends potato with bbq spice, chipotle aioli and picked red onions will both be available at the Twisted Tatoes Stand on the reserve level.
—The taqueria platter will be served with chicken taquitos, jalapeño poppers, and a cheese quesadilla. The platter will be available at the Hornitos Cantina on the field level or the LA Taqueria on the reserve level. In addition, the Hornitos Cantina in right field will feature specialty Hornitos cocktails this season.
—Several flavors of aguas frescas will be available for purchase:
Mango (with mango chunks, mango rim dip)
Horchata (with mazapan rim)
Strawberry-Kiwi (strawberry chunks)
Pineapple (pineapple chunks, tamarindo rim)
These drinks will be available at the Hornitos Cantina on field level, Eats and Drinks in the center-field pavilion and the LA Taqueria on reserve level
—A Caprese Grinder will be served on French bread with fresh mozzarella, basil, sliced tomatoes, and balsamic glaze. This dish will be available at the Dodgers Deli on the loge level.
—The Cold Cuts Grinder will be comprised of a French roll, mortadella, salami, capicola, provolone, sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce and hot giardiniera and will be available at the Dodgers Deli on the loge level.
—A roast beef dip sandwich will be served on a French roll and will have shaved roast beef, provolone cheese, and grilled onions. The sandwich will be available at the Dodgers Deli on the loge level.
—Nashville style tenders will be tossed in Nashville seasoning and served with crinkle cut fries and will be available at the Sweet Chick stand on the field level.
—The Korean short rib bowl will have steamed rice topped with wok fired beef and steamed broccoli. The bowl will be served at Base Bowls on the field level.
—Dessert Nachos, a traditional style nacho bowl served with buñuelos, soft serve ice cream, strawberries, and chocolate sauce. The item will be available at the Dunkin Stand on the field level and Sweet Spot on the loge level.
—MVP BBQ Platter will be served with burnt ends, corn bread, pulled pork, coleslaw, and smoked picante. The platter is available at the Think Blue BBQ in the centerfield pavilion.
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Until next time...
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