Thursday, November 12, 2009

1976 Topps #265 - Willie Davis

  • Willie Davis was in the twilight of his career when this card was produced. After spending 14 years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Diego Padres were Willie's fourth team in three seasons.

  • Davis was signed by the Dodgers in 1958. He batted .352 in 1959 and .346 in 1960 to earn a promotion to the Dodgers at the end of the 1960 season. Willie batted .318 in 88 at bats for the Dodgers.

  • In 1961 Davis started 84 games in centerfield and played in a total of 114 games at that position. Willie batted .254 with 12 HR in 330 AB. After the '61 season he became the starting centerfielder for Los Angeles, a job he would hold until his trade after the 1973 season.

  • Davis had a good year in 1962, leading the NL in triples with 10. He batted .285 with 21 homers, 85 RBI, 103 runs scored, and 32 stolen bases. In 1963 Willie had a drop-off as he batted .245 with nine HR in 515 AB. This would be a recurring pattern with Davis---a good year followed by an off-year. He also had only a .281 on base percentage in 1963. Willie didn't take a whole lot of walks, so if he didn't hit then he wasn't a good guy to have at the top of the lineup.

  • Willie bounced back in 1964 with a .294 average, 42 stolen bases, and 91 runs scored. He regressed again in 1965 (.238 with 52 runs scored) and then improved to a .284 average in 1966. Davis hung around the .250s in 1967 and in 1968.

  • In 1969 Davis began a string of good offensive seasons. He batted .311 (1969), .305 (1970), and .309 (1971) and he led the NL in triples with 16 in 1970. In 1971 Willie was selected to his first All Star team and he singled off of Jim Palmer in the 5th inning. He also won his first of three straight Gold Glove awards in 1971. Here is a May 1969 Baseball Digest article about Willie's changed attitude. Here is an October 1971 Baseball Digest article about Willie's penchant for hitting triples.

  • Willie's average dropped to .289 in 1972 but he homered 19 times, the most since 1962. Here is a May 1972 Baseball Digest article about Willie.

  • In 1973 Davis was selected to the NL All Star team and went 2 for 2 with a home run. He batted .285 with 16 HR, 77 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in '73. After the 1973 season Davis was traded to the Montreal Expos for Mike Marshall.

  • Davis played well for his new team in 1974. He batted .295 with 86 runs scored, 12 HR, and 89 RBI. After the season Willie was traded to the Texas Rangers for Pete Mackanin and Don Stanhouse. Davis didn't stay with the Rangers very long. He was batting .249 in 42 games when he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ed Brinkman and Tommy Moore on June 4. Davis finished the 1975 season batting .291 in 98 games for the Cardinals.

  • Davis was traded to the San Diego Padres after the 1975 season for Dick Sharon. In 1976 Willie played in 141 games and batted .268 for the Padres. He was released after the 1976 season and spent two seasons in Japan. In 1979 he signed with the California Angels and batted .250 in 61 at bats (mostly as a pinch hitter). Willie retired after the 1979 season.

  • Willie had substance abuse problems after his career but has managed to beat the problem. He is now on the LA Dodger speaker's bureau speaking about the evils of substance abuse.

  • Here is a September 1, 2009 Baseball History podcast about Willie. These podcasts are great!

  • Liked to face: Bob Gibson (.320 in 125 AB); Tom Seaver (.389 in 108 AB); Bob Friend (.427 in 75 AB); Milt Pappas (.417 in 72 AB)

  • Hated to face: Juan Marichal (.181 in 193 AB); Bob Buhl (.162 in 74 AB); Phil Niekro (.221 in 113 AB)

Here is an interview with Davis in 2009:


  1. I don't know half of what Willie said in that interview, but it was entertaining.

  2. It's strange seeing Willie Davis in a uniform other than the Dodgers.