Center Fielder Willie Davis Found Dead in Home

Published March 10, 2010

LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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 Los Angeles Dodgers, has died. 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. 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 and our sincere thoughts are with his children during this difficult time," Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said in a statement.

Davis was found dead Tuesday in his Burbank home, police said, adding that they did not believe foul play was involved.

Davis' teammates included Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Johnny Roseboro, Junior Gilliam and Maury Wills. He won his World Series rings in 1963 and 1965.

"He was the only person I've ever seen score on a fly ball from second base when he did it in Vero Beach. Willie running the bases was one of the best. He was exciting. He was a very proud man and a good man. He was a good ballplayer," Dodgers coach Manny Mota said.

The Dodgers lost the 1966 World Series 4-0 to the Baltimore Orioles. In Game 2, in the last game of Koufax's pitching career, Davis committed a Fall Classic-record three errors in one inning when he lost one fly ball in the sun, dropped the next one, then overthrew third base.

During the 1965 World Series, Davis stole three bases in one inning, including one where he had to crawl into second base after stumbling and falling.

Davis left the Dodgers in 1973 and went on to play for the Montreal Expos, Texas Rangers, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres and California Angels.

He retired after the 1979 season with a career .279 average and 398 stolen bases.

"Willie was always such a young man in my eyes because of how he was able to move so easily. Time gets away from you quickly. You hope you take advantage of it and you hope you appreciate every day you're here. You just hope he's in a better place," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.

"When that guy came into the league, he put fear in everybody — outfielders, pitchers, infielders, everybody. With all the fights we had and problems we had with the Dodgers, he was always a guy you'd have a word or two with: 'How you doing? How you hitting?'" former San Francisco Giants right fielder Felipe Alou said in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the Giants were playing the White Sox in a spring training game.

In 1996, 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 didn't give him $5,000. Prosecutors eventually decided not to file charges.

His mother said it wasn't the first time he wanted money and she had given it to him in the past. Davis had become a Buddhist more than 30 years earlier, and in the six months before the attack, had started carrying the sword and a dagger that he wore in a holster, his mother said.

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."

Davis was born in 1940 and moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was still a boy. He attended Roosevelt High School.

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.

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.

 

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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