|Born: April 15, 1940
Mineral Springs, Arkansas
|Died: March 9, 2010 (aged 69)
|Batted: Left||Threw: Left|
|September 8, 1960 for the Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 30, 1979 for the California Angels|
|Runs batted in||1,053|
|Career highlights and awards|
William Henry Davis (April 15, 1940, Mineral Springs, Arkansas – March 9, 2010, Burbank, California) was a center fielder in Major League Baseball who played most of his career for the Los Angeles Dodgers. At the end of his career he ranked seventh in major league history in putouts (5449) and total chances (5719) in the outfield, and third in games in center field (2237); he was also ninth in National League history in total outfield games (2274), and won Gold Glove Awards from 1971 to 1973. He had thirteen seasons of 20 or more stolen bases, led the NL in triples twice, and retired with the fourth most triples (138) by any major leaguer since 1945. He holds Los Angeles club records (1958–present) for career hits (2091), runs (1004), triples (110), at bats (7495), total bases (3094) and extra base hits (585). His 31-game hitting streak in 1969 remains the longest by a Dodger. At one point during the streak, when the team was playing at home, the big message board at Dodger Stadium quoted a message from a telegram sent to Davis and the team from Zack Wheat, the team's former record holder, at his home in Missouri.
As a youngster, Davis moved to Los Angeles, California where he was a three-sport standout in baseball, basketball and track & field at Roosevelt High School. He once ran a 9.5-second 100-yard dash, and set a city record in the long jump of 25 feet 5 inches (7.75 m). Discovered by Dodgers scout Kenny Myers, Davis signed with the ballclub upon graduating from Roosevelt in 1958. While playing for Reno, he scored from first base on a single nine times in one season.
He debuted with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1960. The following season he replaced Duke Snider in center field, where he stayed for 13 years. Widely considered to be one of the fastest players of the 1960s, Davis had 20 or more stolen bases in eleven consecutive seasons, with a career-high 42 in 1964. Along with Maury Wills, he provided speed at the top of Los Angeles lineup as part of three pennant-winning Dodgers teams.
In 1962, Davis batted .285 with 85 runs batted in and posted career highs in home runs (21), runs (103) and hits (171). The same season, Davis and Wills set an NL record for stolen bases by two teammates with 136 (Wills had 104, Davis 32).
Davis hit a career-high .311 in 1969; his hitting streak that year, from August 1 to September 3, was the longest in the major leagues since Dom DiMaggio hit in 34 straight games in 1949 and broke Zack Wheat's franchise record of 29, set in 1916. In 1970 he hit .305, and he had another hitting streak of 25 games in 1971, ending with a .309 average and double figures in doubles (33), triples (10), home runs (10) and stolen bases (20). He also led the NL in triples in 1962 and 1970.
Davis made the NL All-Star team in 1971 and 1973, going a combined 3-for-3 with a home run off Nolan Ryan, and won the Gold Glove each year from 1971 to 1973. In the 1965 World Series, he set a record (since broken) of three stolen bases (including one during which he stumbled and fell, the pitcher hesitated throwing to first, and Davis literally crawled into second base safely) in a single game. He led the league in putouts twice, but also twice led the NL in errors; he committed a Series-record three errors on two consecutive plays in the fifth inning of Game Two of the 1966 World Series (the final game of Sandy Koufax's great pitching career), first by losing a fly ball in the sun, then by dropping the next fly ball and overthrowing third base.
After the 1973 season he was traded to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Mike Marshall; he batted .295 for Montreal before being traded to the Texas Rangers in December 1974. He hit only .249 for the Rangers in 42 games in 1975 before finishing the season with the St. Louis Cardinals, batting .291. In 1976 he hit .268 for the San Diego Padres, then spent two years in Japan with the Chunichi Dragons and Crown Lighter Lions. A Buddhist convert, he nonetheless irritated teammates by constantly fingering his prayer beads and chanting before games. He played his final major league season with the California Angels in 1979, and made two pinch hitting appearances in the American League Championship Series before retiring. In an 18-season career, he posted a .279 batting average with 182 home runs and 1053 RBI in 2429 games played. He also collected 2561 hits and 398 stolen bases. His total of 2237 games in center field ranked behind only Willie Mays (2827) and Tris Speaker (2690) in major league history. In addition to the Los Angeles records he retains, his club mark of 1952 games was surpassed by Bill Russell in 1984; Steve Garvey broke his records of 849 RBI and 321 doubles in 1981 and 1982 respectively. Garvey and Ron Cey passed his Los Angeles club record of 154 home runs in 1979; Davis' record for left-handed hitters was broken by Shawn Green in 2004.
Willie also appeared in several TV programs, including "Mr. Ed", "The Flying Nun" and "Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law". He also was a co-star of the Jerry Lewis comedy film from 1970, "Which Way to the Front?".
|Major League Player of the Month