|WILLIE DAVIS (AP/ File 1961)|
Willie Davis, 69; swift Dodger replaced Snider in centerfield
LOS ANGELES - Willie Davis - a speedy center fielder who collected two World Series rings, three Gold Gloves, and was a two-time All-Star during his 14 seasons with the
He was 69.
“He was beloved by generations of Dodger fans and remains one of the most talented players ever to wear the Dodger uniform,’’ Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said in a statement. “Having spent time with him over the past six years, I know how proud he was to have been a Dodger. He will surely be missed.’’
Mr. Davis was found dead yesterday in his Burbank home, police said, adding that they did not believe foul play was involved.
Mr. Davis’s teammates included Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, John Roseboro, Junior Gilliam, and Maury Wills. He won his World Series rings in 1963 and 1965.
The Dodgers lost the 1966 series 4-0 to the
During the 1965 World Series, Mr. Davis stole three bases in one inning, including one where he had to crawl into second base after stumbling and falling.
Mr. Davis left the Dodgers in 1973 and went on to play for the Montreal Expos,
He retired after the 1979 season with a career .279 average and 398 stolen bases.
“When that guy came into the league, he put fear in everybody, outfielders, pitchers, infielders, everybody,’’ former
“I’m surprised,’’ Alou said. “Wow. He was a great player. He was one of those exciting players with many triples and doubles. I had friends on the Dodgers, which was unusual. He was one of them.’’
Alou recalls a game at Dodger Stadium when Mr. Davis hit a hard single over first base that Alou chased down, throwing him out at second.
“I saw the umpire call him out, and I said, ‘I finally got that guy trying to stretch a single into a double.’ The next day I saw the newspaper and it said Willie Davis had a double. I said, ‘I threw him out.’ My teammate said: ‘We tagged him out. He had passed second.’ He was that fast.’’
In 1996, Mr. Davis was arrested for allegedly threatening his parents with a samurai sword and ninja-style throwing stars, saying he would burn their house down if they did not give him $5,000. Prosecutors did not file charges.
His mother said that it was not the first time he wanted money and that she had given it to him in the past. In the six months before the attack, Mr. Davis had started carrying the sword and a dagger that he wore in a holster, his mother said.
The Dodgers wanted to help Mr. Davis, former Dodger pitcher Don Newcombe said in 1996, and got permission from then-owner Peter O’Malley to do everything they could.
“But if you perceive that a person has some kind of problem, you can’t give him money to enhance the problem,’’ Newcombe said. “The Dodgers are too smart for that. We wish it was that easy, but it doesn’t work that way. We would not give him money if we thought that he was going to use it for something other than a good use.’’
“If we could define the problem, Willie would go to a doctor of our choosing,’’ Newcombe said. “Then we could have a medical diagnosis and a medical opinion about what his needs are. Then if that diagnosis was that he had a substance abuse problem, we’d put him in the hospital and we’d treat him for as long as he needed to be treated. The ball is in his court now. Willie’s going to have to make a decision about what he’s going to have to do with the rest of his life.’’
Former Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi once said of Davis: “There was nothing more exciting than to watch Willie run out a triple. . . . He could have been a Hall of Famer, but he had million-dollar legs and a 10-cent head.’’
Hall of Famer Willie McCovey of the Giants said yesterday: “There was a time he kind of went off and I’m not sure what [he did]. He was living a weird existence for a while. But he had straightened himself out.’’
Mr. Davis was born in Mineral Springs, Ark., in 1940 and moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was still a boy. He attended Roosevelt High School where he was a world class sprinter.
He was recruited by the Dodgers and signed with them when he graduated in 1958, McCourt said. Two years later, he was in the majors. In 1961, he replaced Duke Snider in center field.
Mr. Davis still holds six team records. He is the franchise leader in hits (2,091), extra-base hits (585), at-bats (7,495), runs (1,004), triples (110), and total bases (3,094).
He set a team record in 1969 with a 31-game hitting streak. He had more than 20 stolen bases in 11 consecutive seasons.
He appeared in a few television shows, including “The Flying Nun’’ and “Mister Ed,’’ usually as himself.