Biggest Challenge is the Street"
Player Profile on Baseball Great Tommy Davis
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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