Eric Keith Davis (born May 29, 1962 in Los Angeles, California) is a former center fielder for several Major League Baseball teams. Davis was 21 years old when he broke into the big leagues on May 19, 1984, with the Cincinnati Reds, the team for which he is most remembered. Davis actually began his professional career as a shortstop, but after committing 35 errors during his first season in the professional ranks, he was on the verge of being released. It was then suggested that he be moved to center field and his career flourished.
When Eric Davis first appeared 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 basepaths. He made a habit of robbing home runs and elicited comparisons to Willie Mays.
Unfortunately, he was also highly injury-prone, never playing more than 135 games in any season.
Davis showed what he could do in 1986 hitting .277 with 27 homers and stealing 80 bases. He built on that success by hitting .293 with 37 homers and 50 steals in 1987, despite playing in only 129 games. From 1986 to 1990, he averaged 30 home runs and 40 steals. In 1990, with a solid team around him, Davis would be a key player in Cincinnati's "wire-to-wire" championship season.
One of Davis' most famous moments was when Davis 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 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 Los Angeles for Tim Belcher and John Wetteland. He suffered several more injuries in 1992 and was largely ineffective. By the end of 1993, the Dodgers dealt him to Detroit for a minor-leaguer. After the trade, his body continued to deteriorate and he retired at the end of the 1994 season.
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 recovery
In May of 1997, Davis was devastated to learn that he had colon cancer. He vowed to return that season, although most felt that it would be unlikely that he could recover in time. By September, while he was still in treatment, Davis returned to the team. His cancer treatment left him tired but he worked hard to regain his form. Davis was well-enough to hammer 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 with 28 homers. He also hit in 30 consecutive games that season.
1999 would be the beginning of the end for Davis. 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 Ray Knight, who was the Reds manager in 1996. 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.
Davis was also among the first high profile baseball players to wear Nike high-top cleats.
He was known as "Eric the Red" during his career in Cincinnati.
He is the godfather of NBA basketball player Jordan Farmar.
Steve Carlton recorded his 4,000th strikeout against Davis in 1986.
He is childhood friends with Darryl Strawberry, Tony Gwynn and Byron Scott
Cincinnati Reds (1984-1991, 1996)
Los Angeles Dodgers (1992-93)
Detroit Tigers (1993-94)
Baltimore Orioles (1997-98)
St. Louis Cardinals (1999-2000)
San Francisco Giants (2001)
Twice National League All-Stars (1987, 1989)
3-time Gold Glove Award (1987-89)
Twice Silver Slugger Award (1987, 1989)
Second in stolen bases (NL 1986, 80 - behind Vince Coleman, 107)
TSN Comeback Player of the Year Award (1996)
Roberto Clemente Award (1997)
Hutch Award (1997)
Tony Conigliaro Award (1997)
Best season: 1987
.293 batting average
37 home runs
50 stolen bases
Stole 80 bases in 1986 with 27 homers in only 415 At Bats.
Became the first, and one of only two players ever to hit over 25 or more home runs and steal 80 or more bases in a season in 1986 (Rickey Henderson accomplished this feat for the Yankees that same year).
Holds the Baltimore Orioles hitting streak record with 30 games in 1998.
Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame (inducted in 2005)
Games Played: 1626
At Bats: 5321
Home Runs: 282
Runs Batted In: 934
Batting average: .269
Stolen bases: 349
Played 17 seasons from 1984 to 2001.
Hitting for the cycle
Top 500 home run hitters of all time
Athlete on Wheaties box
Autobiography: Born To Play, 1999, ISBN 0-670-88511-8
Official Eric Davis website
Baseball-Reference.com - career statistics and analysis
Eric Davis at Baseball Library
Eric Davis at PreventCancer.org
Time Magazine article on Eric Davis (1987)
National League Player of the Month July 1986
National League Player of the Month April & May 1987
National League Player of the Month August 1988
Home Run Derby Champion 1989
NL Comeback Player of the Year 1996