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Eric Keith Davis (born May 29, 1962) is an American former center fielder for several Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, most notably the Cincinnati Reds, to which he owes his nickname Eric the Red. Davis was 21 years old when he made his major league debut with the Reds on May 19, 1984. Davis spent eight seasons with the Reds and later played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, St. Louis Cardinals, and San Francisco Giants. A right-handed batter and fielder, Davis was blessed with a mesmerizing combination of athletic ability, including excellent foot and bat speed, tremendous power, and superlative defensive acumen. He became one of baseball's most exciting players during his peak, achieving a number of rare feats. In 1987, he became the first player in major league history to hit three grand slams in one month and the first to achieve at least 30 home runs and 50 stolen bases in the same season.

Eric Davis
Eric davis.jpg
Outfielder
Born: (1962-05-29) May 29, 1962 (age 56)
Los Angeles, California
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
May 19, 1984, for the Cincinnati Reds
Last MLB appearance
October 7, 2001, for the San Francisco Giants
MLB statistics
Batting average.269
Home runs282
Runs batted in934
Teams
Career highlights and awards

A native of Los Angeles, California, the Reds selected Davis in the eighth round of the 1980 amateur draft from John C. Fremont High School in South Los Angeles, where he was a heavily recruited college basketball prospect. In his major league career, he often sustained injuries while winning two MLB All-Star Game selections, three Rawlings Gold Glove Awards and two Silver Slugger Awards. Over a 162-game period spanning June 11, 1986, to July 4, 1987, he batted .308, .406 on-base percentage, .622 slugging percentage with 47 home runs, 149 runs scored, 123 runs batted in (RBI) and 98 stolen bases. In 1990, he became a World Series champion in the Reds' upset and four-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics.

A series of injuries derailed what seemed to be an even more promising career as he moved to the Dodgers and then the Tigers, and he retired in 1994. In 1996, Davis successfully restarted his baseball career with the Reds and was named the comeback player of the year. He moved to the Orioles and, despite fighting colon cancer, he had one of his best statistical seasons in 1998. Injuries again slowed Davis over the next few seasons, and he retired for good in 2001.

Along with other business interests, Davis currently works as a roving instructor in the Reds organization.

Contents

BackgroundEdit

Eric Keith Davis was born in Los Angeles, California, one of three children, to Jimmy and Shirley Davis. He has one brother named Jim, Jr., and one sister named Sharletha. Jimmy worked at grocery chain in Gardena named Boys Market. He was active with his sons in sports, such as pick-up basketball games. With copious all-round athletic talent, Davis competed with future Los Angeles Lakers player Byron Scott at Baldwin Hills Park and Recreation Center from the age of 12, and he aspired to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA).[1]

While at Baldwin Hills, Davis befriended Darryl Strawberry, and their careers would become intertwined from high school to Major League Baseball (MLB). Davis attended John C. Fremont High School in South Los Angeles where he starred in both basketball and baseball, while Strawberry attended and played for crosstown rival Crenshaw. As a senior, Davis batted .635 and stole 50 bases in 15 games.[2] As a basketball player, he averaged 29 points and 10 assists per game. Steadfast in his goal of playing in the NBA, Davis continued to exert more effort to prepare for a career in basketball[3] than he did in baseball until his senior year of high school.[1] Davis lacked interest in attending college, and because the customary path to an NBA career at the time was by playing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), he decided to focus his aspirations on baseball.[3]

The Cincinnati Reds selected Davis in the eighth round (200th overall) of the 1980 MLB draft.[4] Strawberry was chosen in the same draft as the first overall selection by the New York Mets.[3]

Early careerEdit

In his first full year of professional baseball, Davis pilfered 40 bases in 62 games.[3]

When Davis first appeared in the major leagues in 1984, his physical talents gave him the potential to be one of the most exciting players in the game. He was a rare five-tool player with home run power as well as sheer speed on the base paths. He made a habit of robbing home runs and elicited comparisons to Willie Mays.

Davis began to excel in 1986, batting .277, swatting 27 homers, and stealing 80 bases. He and Rickey Henderson remain the only players in major league history to be members of the "20/80 club".[5] In a 162-game span—June 11, 1986 to July 4, 1987—he made 659 plate appearance and batted .308/.406/.622 with 47 homers, 149 runs, 123 RBI, and 98 stolen bases. (He was caught stealing just 12 times.)[3]

Davis continued to build on his success in 1987. On Opening Day, he went 3–for–3 with a home run, a stolen base, and two walks. Through the first 10 games, he was batting .526 with 4 home runs and 8 stolen bases. On May 1, 1987, he hit 2 home runs, including a grand slam. Two days later, he hit another three home runs—one each to left, center, and right field—including a grand slam, and a stolen base. He hit another grand slam that month, making him the first player in history to hit three in one month. During an eventful play in the late innings at Wrigley Field on September 4, Davis crashed into the outfield brick wall as he caught a deep fly ball; he laid on the ground several moments and was slowed afterward.[3]

Davis finished the 1987 season with a .293 average, 37 homers, and 50 steals. He became the first player in history with 30 homers and 50 steals, despite playing in only 129 games.[6] Had he played 162 games at that pace, he would've amassed 46 homers and 63 steals. Prior to 1987, just six players had achieved the 30–30 club. That season, three others—including Strawberry, Joe Carter, and Howard Johnson—joined Davis in the 30–30 club.[3] He led the league in power-speed number (42.53) with a mark that is the third-highest single season mark ever.[7]

From 1986 to 1990, Davis averaged 30 home runs and 40 stolen bases. During this time, he was one of the game's most exciting players and a very visible superstar player. He drew some MVP support every year from 1986 to 1990, finishing in the top 15 in the voting every year. From 1986 to 1989, he also finished in the NL's top 10 in home runs, slugging percentage, and OPS each year. While he had some other good seasons later in his career, injuries prevented him from reaching this type of peak again. In 1990, with a solid team around him, Davis was a key player in Cincinnati's "wire-to-wire" championship season.

One of Davis' most famous moments was when he homered off Oakland's Dave Stewart in his first World Series at bat in 1990. The home run triggered a World Series sweep for the Reds. While diving for a ball during game 4 of the Series, Davis suffered a lacerated kidney, which required surgery. He also underwent off-season surgery on a knee that he had injured earlier in the season.

After 1990, Davis was unable to get his career back on track. Injuries sabotaged his play in 1991, and he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Tim Belcher and John Wetteland. He suffered several more injuries in 1992 and was largely ineffective.

On August 23, 1993, the Dodgers dealt Davis to the Detroit Tigers for a player to be named later. One week later, the Tigers sent pitcher John DeSilva to the Dodgers to complete the trade. The Tigers had one of the top offenses in 1993 and were seeking to upgrade one of their few weaknesses, the center field position. Davis replaced Milt Cuyler and batted relatively well in 29 games down the stretch with the Tigers; he batted fifth or sixth and finished with an adjusted OPS of 142 and his sixth 20/20 season. Davis was expected to be the Tigers' primary center fielder in 1994, but injuries limited him to just 37 games and batting average of just .183. Following the strike-shortened 1994 season, Davis was granted free agency by the Tigers and chose to retire.

After recuperating for one season, he felt healthy enough to return to baseball with Cincinnati in 1996. He had a solid season with a .287 average and 26 home runs, although injuries cut into his playing time. He had played well enough, however, to convince Baltimore to sign him as a free agent.

Cancer diagnosis and recoveryEdit

In May 1997, Davis was diagnosed with colon cancer. By September, while he was still in treatment, Davis returned to the team. His cancer treatment left him tired, but he worked very hard to regain his form. Davis was well enough to hit a game-winning home run in the 1997 American League Championship Series. After the season, he was given the Roberto Clemente Award. He serves as an honorary board member of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

Davis was brought back for 1998 and went on to have one of his best seasons, batting .327—the 4th best average in the AL—and hitting 28 homers. He also hit in 30 consecutive games that season.

End of playing career and legacyEdit

The beginning of the end for Davis's career began in 1999. He spent three injury-plagued seasons with St. Louis and San Francisco before retiring in 2001.

In 1999, Davis wrote his autobiography, Born to Play, in which he credited Pete Rose for having faith in him and teaching him about the game. He also had harsh words for 1996 Reds manager Ray Knight, with whom Davis had had a memorable on-field fight in 1986.[8] He claimed Knight did not support his comeback and did not stand up for him in contract negotiations after the season. Davis remains bitter about the Reds' treatment of him after his World Series injury. Davis was left behind in Oakland after the series and requested that the Reds provide a private plane to bring him back to Cincinnati. Davis claimed that he was refused a number of times and made his own way home after the hospital released him.

According to former Reds teammate Paul O'Neill, Davis was "the best hitter, best runner, best outfielder, best everything" he ever saw.[9]

As of 2017, Davis was a hitting instructor for Elite Development Invitational, in Vero Beach, Florida, and seeks to promote more African American youth participation in baseball.[10]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Wiley, Ralph (May 25, 1987). "These are red letter days". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  2. ^ Newhan, Ross (May 10, 1987). "Strawberry and Eric Davis dream of playing together again". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Posnanski, Joe (May 31, 2018). "TBT: Eric the Red's epic 162-game run in 1986–87". MLB.com. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  4. ^ "Eric Davis Statistics". Baseball Reference.
  5. ^ "Rickey Henderson Statistics". Baseball Reference. Retrieved November 17, 2014.
  6. ^ "Rare Feats in MLB History". MLB.com.
  7. ^ Single-Season Leaders &amp Records for Power-Speed # | Baseball-Reference.com
  8. ^ "1986 Ray Knight vs Eric Davis Fight - BRAWL" – via YouTube.
  9. ^ Holmes, Dan (December 10, 2011). "When Superman roamed center field for the Tigers". detroitathletic.com.
  10. ^ Elman, Jake (July 22, 2017). "Reds great Davis motivating youths at EDI: Club Hall of Famer nurturing 'future of our game' while serving as hitting coach". MLB.com. Retrieved June 2, 2018.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Kevin Bass
Steve Sax
Tony Gwynn
National League Player of the Month
July 1986
April & May 1987
August 1988
Succeeded by
Dale Murphy
Tony Gwynn
Kevin McReynolds
Preceded by
Kelly Gruber
Hitting for the cycle
June 2, 1989
Succeeded by
Kevin McReynolds