Dodger Legends - Tommy Davis
Born: March 21, 1939 in Brooklyn, NY
Height: 6’ 2’’
Weight: 205 lbs.
Position: Left Field
Debut: September 22, 1959
Final Game: October 2, 1976
Hear this special audio segment highlighting Tommy Davis' career:
Herman Thomas Davis, Jr. grew up in the shadows if old Ebbets Field, attending Boys High School in Brooklyn New York. Davis excelled in high school as an athlete, competing in baseball, basketball (with future Basketball Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens) and track and field. He signed with the Dodgers in 1956 as an amateur free agent, however only after being lured from almost signing with the hated Yankees after receiving a call from Dodger great Jackie Robinson. He quickly excelled in the minor leagues winning batting titles in the Midwest League and the Pacific Coast League.
Davis finally hit the majors in 1959, obtaining only one-pinch hit at-bat that season on September 22. The next year he cemented himself as a starter in the Dodger outfield, batting .276 in his rookie year and finishing 5th in the Rookie of the Year voting. The following year led to similar results, batting .278 in 1961, before finally breaking out and becoming a premier left fielder in 1962. The ’62 season saw Davis’ batting average sky rocket an astounding 68 points to .346, enough to edge out Frank Robinson’s average of .342 and thus claim the National League batting crown. 1962 also saw Davis establish career bests in home runs (27), runs (120), and triples (9) as he helped lead the Dodgers to a tie for first place with the rival San Francisco Giants. However, he suffered defeat in a three-game playoff with the Giants as well as the MVP race, finishing third behind fellow Dodger Maury Wills and the Giants’ Willy Mays. Davis achieved more success the following season in 1963, winning his second batting title after batting .326 and finishing 8th in the MVP voting. The regular season proved to be just the beginning though, as Davis helped lead the Dodgers to a sweep of the New York Yankees in the 1963 World Series, batting .400 in the series and driving the only run in during the Dodgers 1-0 win in Game 2. Sandy Koufax was later quoted saying, “For two years (1962 and 1963) Tommy (Davis) was the best hitter in baseball. He just didn’t get the recognition. He was part of a team that had a lot of good parts to it.”
Following the 1963 season Davis’ game proved to never be the same. His batting average plummeted to .275 in 1964 as the Dodgers record seemingly fell with it. On May 1, 1965 Davis was lost for the season after sliding into second, breaking and dislocating his ankle. However, the Dodgers responded to win another World Series title later that season, winning the title in 7 games over the Minnesota Twins. 1966 was a bounce-back year for Davis as he batted .313, but his power numbers were still declining and he played only 100 games during the season as the Dodgers were later swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. Following the 1966 season, Davis was traded to the New York Mets beginning a stretch where he changed teams eleven times in ten years. Although Davis continued to play good baseball throughout the rest of his career, he never matched the success he achieved with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He retired after being released by the Kansas City Royals on January 17, 1977.