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View Full Version : Eric Davis: the Swiss Army knife of five-tool players



savafan
07-11-2008, 12:00 AM
http://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/articles/Eric_Davis_Like_Having_an_Atomic_Bomb_Sitting_Next _to_You_in_the_Dugout/288417

Baseball has never thrilled or excited me the way that some other sports--particularly basketball--do but a handful of great baseball players have captivated me as much as any athletes in any sport and right at the top of that list is the wondrous Eric Davis. In 1986 and 1987 it seemed possible that he might become the greatest all-around baseball player ever. If that statement sounds absurd to you, then check out the words that the equally incomparable Ralph Wiley used to open his May 25, 1987 Sports Illustrated cover story about Davis:

Let's get it straight from the beginning. Eric Davis is not Willie Mays or Henry Aaron or Roberto Clemente. Eric Davis is E. That's it, just E, the single-letter nickname his friends know him by. E's friends are everywhere now, and many of them never saw Mays or Aaron or Clemente. Children who play on scarred inner-city blacktops, manicured suburban lawns and wide-open country fields join E's legions with every sweet, vicious swing of his 32-ounce bat. That's E, as in Everything—which is what the new Cincinnati Reds star has.

"Eric is the one guy who can lead our league in home runs and stolen bases," says Pete Rose, Davis' manager. "Name me another cleanup hitter who can steal 100 bases. Name one. It's like having an atomic bomb sitting next to you in the dugout."

"Eric," says the Reds' six-time All-Star outfielder Dave Parker, "is blessed with world-class speed, great leaping ability, the body to play until he's 42, tremendous bat speed and power, and a throwing arm you wouldn't believe. There's an aura to everything he does. I tell you frankly that I'd pay to see him if I had to."

Everyone who has paid to see Eric Davis lately has gotten his money's worth. As most of America knows, E is off to one of the all-around best starts in National League history. His numbers: .358 average, 15 homers, 36 runs scored, 16 steals, 38 RBIs, and two weeks still remaining in the month of May. But it's the ease with which he has amassed these stats that has astonished older fans and enraptured younger ones. Meanwhile, baseball cognoscenti are left with an inescapable conclusion: To find an appropriate comparison for the soon-to-be 25-year-old outfielder, one must hark back to the '50s and '60s, to Mays and Aaron and Clemente.

Davis was the Swiss Army knife of five-tool players; he had more tools than Home Depot: Davis could hit for average, hit for power, run, field his position with amazing range/stunning grace and throw like he had a bazooka attached to his shoulder. He specialized in using whatever tool was necessary to win a particular game, delivering game winning RBI, game saving catches and game breaking steals with equal aplomb. Wiley noted that after a 2-0 Reds victory over the Mets during which Davis scored a run, stole three bases and robbed Darryl Strawberry of a home run with a catch of which Rose said, "I didn't think Superman could get to that ball," Mays commented, "It's an honor to be compared to Eric Davis. I hope Eric is honored." Aaron declared, "Eric Davis has unlimited ability—awesome ability. I don't think he'll be Willie Mays. That would take some doing. But, on the other hand, I don't think he has a weakness, either."

In that magical summer of 1987, Davis set NL records for grand slams in one month (three in May) and most home runs by the end of May (19). He won the NL Player of the Month Award in April and May. Although injuries limited him to 129 games, he still finished with 37 home runs (fourth in the NL), 100 RBI (eighth), 120 runs scored (third), 50 stolen bases (fourth), a .593 slugging percentage (second) and a .293 batting average. At that time he was just the seventh 30-30 player and he reached those numbers earlier in the season than anyone ever had. Davis was the first 30-50 player in MLB history, a feat later matched by Barry Bonds.

The previous season, Davis put up these gaudy numbers while playing in three more games but with 59 fewer at bats: 27 home runs (fifth in the NL), 71 RBI, 97 runs scored (third), 80 stolen bases (second) and a .523 slugging percentage (which would have ranked second if he had enough at bats to qualify). Davis and Rickey Henderson (who had 28 home runs and 87 stolen bases in 1986) remain the only 25-80 players in MLB history.

It may be hard for younger fans to believe but before Mark McGwire did whatever he does not want to talk about and Barry Bonds (allegedly) used various performance-enhancing drugs to become the not so jolly home run bashing Giant, a 30-plus home run season was quite an accomplishment, because 40 home run seasons were exceptional and 50 home run seasons were very rare. Only one player hit at least 50 home runs in a season between 1965 and 1976 (Willie Mays hit 52 in 1965), while between 1977 ( George Foster, 52) and 1990 (Cecil Fielder, 51) no MLB player hit 50 or more home runs in a season; in many of the years between 1965 and 1990, 37 would have been good enough to be a league-leading total and Davis blasted that many home runs in 1987 despite missing a fifth of the season and being a premier base stealer.

Davis won three straight Gold Gloves (1987-89) and in both 1987 and 1989 he made the All-Star Team and won the Silver Slugger Award. He also won the 1989 Home Run Derby. Davis ranked in the top ten in the NL in home runs, slugging percentage and OPS (on base percentage plus slugging) each year from 1986-89. He was not only a prolific base stealer but also a very efficient one: Davis was never caught stealing in high school or in his first year of pro ball and his stolen base percentage of 84.1 ranks second in MLB history behind Tim Raines (84.7) ; Davis' 85.0 NL stolen base percentage is also second behind Raines (85.7).

In 1990, Davis had 24 home runs and 86 RBI for a Reds team that led the NL West wire to wire and then swept the powerful Oakland A's in the World Series. Davis hit a two-run home run in his first World Series at bat to give the Reds a 2-0 first inning lead in game one, setting the tone for a 7-0 victory over the defending World Champions. Davis was not able to celebrate the sweep with his teammates because he suffered a potentially life threatening kidney laceration while diving for a ball in the outfield during game four. He was hospitalized for 11 days. Reds' owner Marge Schott did not even pay for his plane ride back to Cincinnati and after Davis labored through an injury-riddled 1991 season the Reds traded him to the L.A. Dodgers.

Davis continued to struggle with his health and in 1993 the Dodgers traded him to the Detroit Tigers. A disc injury in his neck limited him to just 37 games in 1994 and he retired after that season. However, by 1996 Davis had recuperated sufficiently from his various ailments to attempt a comeback and he was literally a smashing success, blasting 26 home runs and 83 RBI in 129 games for the Reds. He even stole 23 bases. Davis won the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award but did not get along well with Manager Ray Knight and thus decided to sign with Baltimore as a free agent. Davis' Baltimore career hardly began before he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He vowed to return before the end of the season and was true to his word, overcoming surgery and chemotherapy to rejoin the team's lineup in September. Davis hit a ninth inning home run in the Orioles' 4-2 victory in game five of the ALCS but the Cleveland Indians won game six to advance to the World Series. Davis won the Roberto Clemente, Hutch and Tony Conigliaro Awards in 1997, honors that acknowledged his character, fighting spirit and ability to overcome adversity.

Although Davis was no longer a base stealing threat, in 1998 he proved that at 36 years of age he still had a lot of pop left in his bat, ranking fourth in the AL with a career high .327 average while hitting 28 home runs and notching 89 RBI. Davis ranked eighth in on base percentage (.388), ninth in slugging percentage (.582) and 10th in OPS (.970). He also had a 30 game hitting streak that season, setting an Orioles franchise record. Davis finished his career by playing two seasons in St. Louis and one in San Francisco.

We will never know for sure what Davis could have accomplished had he been healthier during his career but he hit at least 20 home runs in eight different seasons and he persevered long enough to amass 282 home runs and 349 stolen bases in 17 MLB seasons.

OnBaseMachine
07-11-2008, 01:11 AM
That is an excellent article. Thanks for posting that.

I was born in 1987 so I obviously can't remember Davis in his prime but I do remember his big season with the Reds in 1996 and remember just how amazing and fun he was to watch. Even after all those injuries he could still track down a flyball with the best of 'em and hit for tremendous power. He had a lot of bad injuries in his career and still managed to put up some unbelievable numbers. He would be in Cooperstown right now and probably considered among the top players to ever play if not for the injuries. I'd love to go back in time and watch E play in him prime.

NJReds
07-11-2008, 06:51 AM
After living through the Redus-Milner-Householder days, it was thrilling for a Reds fan when they brought in Dave Parker and Eric Davis came on the scene. He was one of my favorites.

Dan
07-11-2008, 08:16 AM
Eric Davis still has the greatest defensive play I've ever seen...

It's the 1990 Playoffs, Eric is playing LF, Billy Hatcher in CF. Bobby Bonilla drills one to straight-away CF, over Hatcher's head. Hatcher futilely runs back trying to catch it. The ball rebounds off the wall and scoots past Hatcher just as Bonilla hits 2nd base. Out of nowhere, Davis appears, backing up Hatcher. He scoops up the ball, turns and fires a strike to Sabo to nail Bonilla at 3rd.

I'll nver forget that play as long as I live, because it embodied baseball perfection: the fundamental of backing up the play, the heads up hustle to get in position, and the pure athleticism to execute it perfectly.

Oh, and the kicker is Bonds followed the play with a single. The camera flashed to Bonilla who was seen hitting the gatorade cooler in frustration because his run would have tied the game.

cumberlandreds
07-11-2008, 08:22 AM
Davis is easily the most talented player I have ever seen play for the Reds. If not for his injuries he was a sure fire HOFer. He could do it all. The praise given by Mays and Aaron speaks volumes to what others thought of him.

Jpup
07-11-2008, 08:29 AM
My childhood here. I was 7 years old in 1987 and 10 in 1990. You can imagine what I thought of Davis. I've yet to meet him, but I sure hope to soon. He's the best Red I ever watched as well.

RichRed
07-11-2008, 09:28 AM
"Eric," says the Reds' six-time All-Star outfielder Dave Parker, "is blessed with world-class speed, great leaping ability, the body to play until he's 42

Ah, if only.

Davis was an unbelievable talent. Did anybody else have the "44 Magnum" poster?

princeton
07-11-2008, 09:31 AM
like Javier Valentin, Dave Parker has no scouting future

Johnny Footstool
07-11-2008, 09:36 AM
Eric Davis still has the greatest defensive play I've ever seen...

It's the 1990 Playoffs, Eric is playing LF, Billy Hatcher in CF. Bobby Bonilla drills one to straight-away CF, over Hatcher's head. Hatcher futilely runs back trying to catch it. The ball rebounds off the wall and scoots past Hatcher just as Bonilla hits 2nd base. Out of nowhere, Davis appears, backing up Hatcher. He scoops up the ball, turns and fires a strike to Sabo to nail Bonilla at 3rd.

I'll nver forget that play as long as I live, because it embodied baseball perfection: the fundamental of backing up the play, the heads up hustle to get in position, and the pure athleticism to execute it perfectly.

Oh, and the kicker is Bonds followed the play with a single. The camera flashed to Bonilla who was seen hitting the gatorade cooler in frustration because his run would have tied the game.

After the game, Davis won the "Player of the Game" award (or whatever the network called it) that was usually reserved for guys who hit homers, pitched 7 shutout innings, or went 3-4. The caption for his "POTG" shot was simple, concise, and comically understated: "Eric Davis - Threw Out Bonilla."


the body to play until he's 42

Man. If only that had been the case. Dave Parker's non-prophetic words really sting now.

redsmetz
07-11-2008, 09:54 AM
Parker didn't miss by much, suggesting age 42. It's amazing that Davis was able to come back and play until he was 39. He was such an exciting player and I never understood the abuse he took from fans in his heyday.

Tommyjohn25
07-11-2008, 10:03 AM
Did anybody else have the "44 Magnum" poster?


No. But I did have the tee-shirt. :)

cumberlandreds
07-11-2008, 10:05 AM
Parker didn't miss by much, suggesting age 42. It's amazing that Davis was able to come back and play until he was 39. He was such an exciting player and I never understood the abuse he took from fans in his heyday.

I didn't either. It always seemed to me he gave everything he had every time I saw him play. I don't think Davis and Rose got along too well and that could have stirred up some of the animosity.

BCubb2003
07-11-2008, 10:05 AM
I'm going to hate myself for doing this, but...

If you consider Eric Davis's game vs. Adam Dunn's game, you might begin to see the subconscious origins of many Reds fans' disdain for Dunn.

And yes, many Reds fans gave Davis a hard time at the time, just as Boston fans got on Ted Williams and New York fans got on DiMaggio.

Johnny Footstool
07-11-2008, 10:12 AM
I'm going to hate myself for doing this, but...

If you consider Eric Davis's game vs. Adam Dunn's game, you might begin to see the subconscious origins of many Reds fans' disdain for Dunn.

And yes, many Reds fans gave Davis a hard time at the time, just as Boston fans got on Ted Williams and New York fans got on DiMaggio.

Absolutely. When things go bad, fans make the best player their scapegoat.

REDREAD
07-11-2008, 11:02 AM
I have to agree that Davis was the most exciting player I ever saw.

Of the Reds I've seen, Larkin and Davis were #1 and #2.. It's hard to say one was better. They were both awesome.

Big Klu
07-11-2008, 12:18 PM
Eric Davis still has the greatest defensive play I've ever seen...

It's the 1990 Playoffs, Eric is playing LF, Billy Hatcher in CF. Bobby Bonilla drills one to straight-away CF, over Hatcher's head. Hatcher futilely runs back trying to catch it. The ball rebounds off the wall and scoots past Hatcher just as Bonilla hits 2nd base. Out of nowhere, Davis appears, backing up Hatcher. He scoops up the ball, turns and fires a strike to Sabo to nail Bonilla at 3rd.

I'll nver forget that play as long as I live, because it embodied baseball perfection: the fundamental of backing up the play, the heads up hustle to get in position, and the pure athleticism to execute it perfectly.

Oh, and the kicker is Bonds followed the play with a single. The camera flashed to Bonilla who was seen hitting the gatorade cooler in frustration because his run would have tied the game.

I was at that game--Game 4 of the NLCS. There was a little enclave of Reds fans in the upper deck down the LF foul line past 3B at Three Rivers Stadium. We were going nuts!

That was also the game in which Bobby Vinton mangled the National Anthem. (I had set the VCR, and when I watched the game again, it appeared to me that he was somewhat inebriated.) Jack Buck got in trouble with CBS when he said after Vinton's poor performance, "Well, when you're Polish and in Pittsburgh, you can get away with anything."

Jpup
07-11-2008, 12:59 PM
Ah, if only.

Davis was an unbelievable talent. Did anybody else have the "44 Magnum" poster?

:wave:

backbencher
07-11-2008, 01:22 PM
Eric Davis still has the greatest defensive play I've ever seen...

It's the 1990 Playoffs, Eric is playing LF, Billy Hatcher in CF. Bobby Bonilla drills one to straight-away CF, over Hatcher's head. Hatcher futilely runs back trying to catch it. The ball rebounds off the wall and scoots past Hatcher just as Bonilla hits 2nd base. Out of nowhere, Davis appears, backing up Hatcher. He scoops up the ball, turns and fires a strike to Sabo to nail Bonilla at 3rd.

I'll nver forget that play as long as I live, because it embodied baseball perfection: the fundamental of backing up the play, the heads up hustle to get in position, and the pure athleticism to execute it perfectly.

Oh, and the kicker is Bonds followed the play with a single. The camera flashed to Bonilla who was seen hitting the gatorade cooler in frustration because his run would have tied the game.


That's my favorite play, too. All the more amazing because the ball caromed off toward right center, not left.

Sports Illustrated had a great two-page photo spread of the play.

wolfboy
07-11-2008, 01:25 PM
I'm going to hate myself for doing this, but...

If you consider Eric Davis's game vs. Adam Dunn's game, you might begin to see the subconscious origins of many Reds fans' disdain for Dunn.

And yes, many Reds fans gave Davis a hard time at the time, just as Boston fans got on Ted Williams and New York fans got on DiMaggio.

Davis was always blamed for injuries he sustained giving his all. It wasn't surprising to me that Griffey has been given the same treatment.

cumberlandreds
07-11-2008, 01:30 PM
I was at that game--Game 4 of the NLCS. There was a little enclave of Reds fans in the upper deck down the LF foul line past 3B at Three Rivers Stadium. We were going nuts!

That was also the game in which Bobby Vinton mangled the National Anthem. (I had set the VCR, and when I watched the game again, it appeared to me that he was somewhat inebriated.) Jack Buck got in trouble with CBS when he said after Vinton's poor performance, "Well, when you're Polish and in Pittsburgh, you can get away with anything."

I was recently going through some VHS tapes looking for some things I had on tape and came across that game. I'm going to have to play it and see if I got that on tape.

BuckeyeRedleg
07-11-2008, 01:42 PM
I posted this a few years ago. Time to bring it out again.



I met Eric Davis back in 1984, I think just after he had been called up for a few weeks.

That night was a strange one. I was 13 and for some weird reason wore a #43 (spring training) Tom Hume jersey to the game that night. So, by the eighth or ninth inning, "Boom Boom" had pulled another Danny Graves-like defeat from the jaws of victory (that he was so accustomed to doing at the time) and I, being very upset, did the only thing I could do to send a statement of my unsatisfaction to the Reds front office and Mr. Hume. I took off my jersey, snuck down to the first row behind the right field home run fence and threw the #43 jersey over the wall. It floated down behind the home run fence for the world and hopefully Mr. Hume to see. What a horrible thing to do, but I was a rabid 13 year-old fan with a bit of an attitude. Besides, I think one of my uncles had been letting me sneak some sips of his Hudey, so I may have not been thinking too clearly. Apologies to Tom if he's reading this right now.

Anyway, my aunt, who was and still is, a pretty attractive blonde, was absolutely in love with Mario Soto and she wanted desperately to get him a letter. Yeah, I know it sounds kind of scary.

So, after the game, my aunt and a shirtless me go down to the garage at the bottom of Riverfront Stadium to find Mario, so she can give him this letter. Again, scary. My other family members had begun the slow walk back to the cars and they were to wait for us to get back. Back then, for some reason, it was easier to get access to these guys when they were coming out of the clubhouse to their cars. That or the security was a bit lax. I don't remember.

Dave Parker, Cesar Cedeno, and a few others walk by and I think I've died and gone to heaven. Then, Eric Davis walks out and walks right at us to his car which is right where we were standing. It was a little sports car, but nothing extravagant. For some reason, I'm thinking it was an Audi. It was pretty nice, but nothing like the cars the other guys were driving. Obviously, he was a rookie.

So, as Eric walks up to his car, he starts checking out my aunt and I say "Hey, you're Eric Davis. I saw you hit a triple the other day. You are a rookie and you're gonna be awesome someday." I know, I know, I'm embarrassed to admit it, but these were the exact words to come out of my mouth.

I'll never forget it, he looked at me, smiled, shook my hand and said, "Hey, I found a new agent."

After a few more embarrassing words by me, my aunt interrupted and asked, "Do you play for the Reds?" Eric, says "yes", and I interject something like "Gina, what are you crazy, this is Eric Davis!" Of course he probably had 35 career AB's at this point, but I knew he was special and I was a dork.

So we stood there and talked to him for a few minutes. It must have been September, because it was a cold night and he asked me why I had no shirt on. He also got a kick out of my explanation.

So my aunt explained that she wants to get this letter to Mario. Eric takes it and then asks us where we are going. My aunt says we are going to walk back to our car on the other side of the freeway. Here's the cool part. He gets out, pulls back his seat and tells us he'll give us a ride. I'm thinking, "man, this is sooo cool". Eric's thinking something else, I'm sure. My aunt says something like, "No, that's okay". To this day, I should have put up a fight. I don't think she realized that this was Eric freaking Davis!

So he signed my ticket stub and shook my hand and told my aunt he would get the letter to Mario. Two years later, he's on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I have it framed on my rec room wall. Smash Hit -Cincinnati's Eric Davis.

He was then and still is my favorite Red of all time. He played the game with such grace and we may never again see anyone come along and display such incredible skills. His combination of speed, power, and defense were unbelievable. It seemed like every night he was on Sportcenter robbing Jack Clark of a HR. He was the greatest baseball player I have ever seen. And the way he handled himself on the field as well as off of it, was always class personified. Later in his career, he battled cancer with the same class he demonstrated his whole career. He was then, and is still, my idol.

I'm so blessed to be there that night he took Dave Stewart WAY deep in the first game of the 1990 series. I was about 20 feet above where the ball landed. It set the tone for the rest of the series, right there. I feel so lucky to have been able to watch such a special talent (even though his greatness was brief) and have a few special, although dorky words with him at such an impressionable age. That 13 year-old was never the same. To the dismay of my HS coach, my batting stance was pure E.D. It got so bad, my teammates called me "E-D". He was the man.


Anyway, my aunt never heard from Mario. Maybe she should have included a picture.



And yes, I too had the "44 Magnum" poster.

BCubb2003
07-11-2008, 01:43 PM
I liked the play where Eric covered second from centerfield.

hebroncougar
07-11-2008, 01:56 PM
Ahhh, that .44 Magnum poster I had hanging in my room as a kid. He was my favorite player for the Reds, ever.

Dan
07-11-2008, 01:57 PM
I was recently going through some VHS tapes looking for some things I had on tape and came across that game. I'm going to have to play it and see if I got that on tape.

Man, if you've got it and can somehow get it online, I'd love to see it again. Especially that one play.

klw
07-11-2008, 01:59 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrDJBCplZf4

cumberlandreds
07-11-2008, 02:01 PM
Man, if you've got it and can somehow get it online, I'd love to see it again. Especially that one play.

I'm sorry but I am about as technically challenged as you can get on things like that. Sometime in the near future I will start converting a lot my VHS tapes onto DVD's. If this tape is still good,I'll keep you mind and give you a copy.

VR
07-11-2008, 03:05 PM
Those early ED years were spectacular. Living in the Bay Area at the time, I enjoyed many massive homeruns, and robbing of homeruns by ED at Candlestick.

I can take you to the exact spot where I watched that massive homerun in the 1st game of the '90 series, that almost hit Pat O'brien in the broadcast booth in left center.

I was at game 4 in Oakland, and saw that dive that lacerated his kidney. If only I would have known that would dramatically change the course of 'Eric the Great's" career. Man did things spiral from there.


I recall him robbing Jack Clark of homeruns two consecutive nights. Just a frenzy on ESPN followed, that exemplified his amazing pure talent.

top6
07-11-2008, 03:05 PM
I'm going to hate myself for doing this, but...

If you consider Eric Davis's game vs. Adam Dunn's game, you might begin to see the subconscious origins of many Reds fans' disdain for Dunn.

And yes, many Reds fans gave Davis a hard time at the time, just as Boston fans got on Ted Williams and New York fans got on DiMaggio.

It will be interesting to see if, at the end of his career, Reds fans also decide Dunn was awesome all along - as they did with Davis. (In fairness, I think a lot of that had to do with Davis's comeback, which was objectively amazing.)

Dan
07-11-2008, 03:08 PM
I'm sorry but I am about as technically challenged as you can get on things like that. Sometime in the near future I will start converting a lot my VHS tapes onto DVD's. If this tape is still good,I'll keep you mind and give you a copy.

I'd love to have a copy, that would be great. As far as getting it converted, I think any Ritz camera shop can do that for you. They may even be able to edit The Play into a separate file for upload.

savafan
07-11-2008, 06:56 PM
That homerun in the first game of the 1990 WS told me right then that the Reds were going to win the whole thing.