What he did: In 1997, the Baltimore Orioles signed Eric Davis, but he appeared in just 42 games because he was diagnosed with colon cancer. However, he beat the odds and returned that year, eventually hitting the game winning homer in game five of the ALCS (let’s avoid what happened in game six). It was one of his two hits that series.
The Orioles brought him back in 1998 and he batted .327/.388/.582 and recorded a hit in 30 consecutive games (tied for the 29th longest streak in MLB history). He also went 35/37 in SB attempts, the 27th highest SB percentage in a season since 1951 (min. 20 SBs). He was the lone bright spot for a losing team with every regular over 30 that was fresh off a fantastic 90 win season. In reality, 1998 might be the last season there was optimism in Baltimore.
That’s why I remember Davis. You should remember Davis for many more reasons.
There have been 17 seasons in MLB history during which a player hit 20 HRs and stole 50 bases. Davis owns two of them. He also has the fourth highest stolen base success percentage in MLB history (min. 100 steals). His percentage, 84.1%, is behind Tim Raines, Pokey Reese and Carlos Beltran.
Davis burst on the scene in 1986 as a 24-year-old, batting .277/.378/.523 with 27 HRs and 80 SBs. From 1986-1990, Davis averaged a .277/.371/.527 line with 30 HRs and 41 SBs.
In 1990, he homered off Dave Stewart in his first World Series at bat. He also made a diving attempt at a ball in game four. The dive resulted in a lacerated kidney. He had surgery on that and his knee that off-season.
He appeared in 89 games the following season, which began an injury plagued trend.
Davis was so beaten down by injuries that he briefly retired after the 1994 season. He eventually made it back to the bigs and had that last gasp of brilliance for the Orioles in 1998 before retiring a few years later.
Era he might have thrived in: Davis could play in any era, but he would absolutely dominate the 1960s. Specifically, the St. Louis Cardinals had a glaring hole in right field and the need for someone to take the baton from Stan Musial.
Why: With Stan the Man in the twilight of his career, the Cardinals would need someone to bolster the offense. Adding Davis to a potent mix of Ken Boyer, Curt Flood, Tim McCarver, Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda and others to replace the weak hitting Mike Shannon would be a boon to a team that perennially finished around .500.
If you normalize the career of Eric Davis to the 1962 Cardinals, he hits .283/.375/.506 with 305 HRs and 386 SBs. Putting his peak years during that era would provide 34 HRs and 50 SBs on average a season.
Having Davis in the fold would also likely stop them from trading for Roger Maris in 1966, who batted just .258/.330/.392 with an 111 OPS+ in his two seasons there.
Of course this assumes Davis wouldn’t need to benefit from modern medicine like he did in the late 90s. At the least, his peak would soften the blow for Cardinals fans when Stan Musial retired.
Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.
Others in this series: Al Simmons, Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies, Barry Bonds, Billy Beane, Billy Martin, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson, Bobby Veach, Carl Mays, Cesar Cedeno, Charles Victory Faust, Chris von der Ahe, Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Don Drysdale, Doug Glanville, Eddie Lopat, Elmer Flick, Frank Howard, Fritz Maisel, Gary Carter, Gavvy Cravath, Gene Tenace, George W. Bush (as commissioner), George Case, George Weiss, Harmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Hugh Casey, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jack Morris, Jackie Robinson, Jim Abbott, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Posnanski, Johnny Antonelli, Johnny Frederick, Josh Gibson, Josh Hamilton, Ken Griffey Jr., Lefty Grove, Lefty O’Doul, Major League (1989 film),Mark Fidrych, Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Nate Colbert, Ollie Carnegie, Paul Derringer, Pedro Guerrero, Pedro Martinez, Pee Wee Reese, Pete Rose, Prince Fielder, Ralph Kiner, Rick Ankiel, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Sam Crawford, Sam Thompson, Sandy Koufax, Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Spud Chandler, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel Brothers, Tony Phillips, Ty Cobb, Vada Pinson, Wally Bunker, Wes Ferrell, Will Clark, Willie Mays