"The Biggest Challenge is the Street"


A Player Profile on Baseball Great Tommy Davis

Tommy Davis, a friend to Baseballers Against Drugs since its inception has seen how the allure of street gangs, the temptation of substance abuse and stress of peer pressure can challenge a vulnerable young mind's sense of self-worth and desire to fit in. As a young man growing up in New York City, Tommy was witness to his share of local street-life. The local park and baseball diamonds were occasionally shut down, as fights would ensue among local street rivals. "My parents would find discarded weapons thrown into our yard by local gang members running from the police," he muses.

Although basketball was really his number one sport of choice, it is baseball he credits as his diversion to get away from it all. This "diversion" would lead him to a successful 18-year Major League Baseball career. "A lot of local athletes took me under their protective wing and helped me out when I was growing up, " he reveals. "I was my late uncle's batboy at the age of 3." At 9 years of age Tommy started playing softball - fast pitch softball - which he credits as developing and exercising his hand/eye coordination skills. "By the time I started playing baseball at 12, I thought hitting a baseball was easy." Years later, Major League pitchers would be shell-shocked by just how easy it appeared to be for Tommy.

Tommy developed both his athletic ability and people skills while playing with the Police Athletic League in New York City, a Brooklyn Boys & Girls' Club affiliate and St. Phillips Episcopal Church. "I knew I loved to play ball and I knew it kept me out of trouble," he tells us. I didn't need to affiliate with a gang. You don't need a gang if you have a team. In fact, the gangs seemed to appreciate and respect the local athletes so they rarely bothered us."

The organization that really opened the door for Tommy was the Brooklyn Bisons. A black manager ran the Bisons, possibly the only team like it in the area at that time. More than managing a team of athletes though, Tommy says, "he cultivated young minds," even meeting every two weeks during the winter and assigning homework. The Bisons held tryouts and chose the most skilled athletes - black, white, Italian, Jewish, Irish, and that left a lasting impression on the young Davis. "By playing together at that time I discovered I loved people - all kinds of people - and I learned the meaning of the word team." Playing for the Bisons from age 13-15, they became Senior League Champs of the Kiwanis League in 1955, defeating the Waterman, NY team 7-5 in a championship game held at Cooperstown, home of Major League Baseball»s Hall of Fame.

Tommy would soon realize what is now his fondest memory, wearing the uniform of the hometown Brooklyn Dodgers, though it wasn't until the Dodgers moved to L.A. that he would see his first Major League action. A two-time National League batting champion for the Dodgers, he found himself an offensive star at a time when dominant pitchers ruled the game. In 1962, he led the league in hitting with a .346 average; a stunning 153 runs batted in, and belted a career-high 27 homeruns. He also set a club record that still stands with 230 hits. In 1963, he led the league again hitting .326 and batted .400 in the World Series as the Dodgers swept the rival New York Yankees that year in 4 straight games.

After 7 complete seasons with the Dodgers, Tommy, recovering from a broken ankle, was traded to the New York Mets. He defied the critics by batting over .300 again (he did so 6 times in his career) and began a whirlwind tour with the Chicago White Sox and Cubs, Seattle Pilots, Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles, and California Angels, before retiring as a Kansas City Royal after the 1976 season. He batted .294 in his 180-year career and his pinch-hitting average of .320 is a Major League record.

Now living in Rancho Cucamonga with his wife Carol, he works in the advertising specialty business for a national clothing firm servicing clients like Cisco and Kaufman & Broad. Sure, there are things he misses about baseball, mostly "being with the guys" and "working as a team." His team attitude is still important today as he continues to donate time to BAD as well as a local junior college. He enjoys tutoring young athletes working to develop their baseball hitting skills. Why he does it is simple really, "You've got to give back to the community. You've got to put in your time helping out others. You've got to keep the chain strong."

"Seeing that light bulb go on when they finally get it" is what gives him pleasure in working with young people. "They develop their swing and confidence in themselves. For the gifted kids that continue to pursue baseball, it could be the vehicle that helps them through school - perhaps a college scholarship and an opportunity at an education that might otherwise have been missed." For the average kid, like those that are often catered to by BAD, "it's a chance to develop more belief in yourself and in all you do." Like Tommy, it could be just the diversion necessary to keep them off the streets. For today, as in his day, the biggest challenge is still the street.

A tip of the cap to Tommy Davis, who is not afraid to meet that challenge face to face. It is clear that the chain remains strong with this man - this baseball legend - as he continues to gives back to the young people in the community.

 

 
BASEBALLERS AGAINST DRUGS
P.O. Box 1438 Simi Valley, CA 93062 | 805-583-1439 | homerun@bad.org