Willie Davis & The Summer Of '69

via www.baseball-almanac.com

James Loney has had a bizarre season.  On the road, he is hitting .307/.384/.471 with 10 home runs.  At home, he is hitting .251/.324/.312, and hasn't hit a home run at Dodger Stadium since August 21, 2008.  There are still nine home games left for Loney to change this, but he is closing in on a Dodger record for most home runs in a season, all on the road.  The Dodger record is 11, set by Willie Davis in 1969.

Davis in 1969 was more known for his 31-game hitting streak, which still stands as the Dodger record.  The hitting streak came after a midseason slump, after which Davis started using a larger bat, that of teammate Ken Boyer.  As Herman Weiskopf of Sports Illustrated noted that season, Davis started seeing better results with a change of attitude as well:

Perhaps even more important to Davis than a change in bats has been his change in attitude. He traces that to the St. Louis-bound flight after he had gone 0 for 6 against the Pirates. "Chuck baseball," he told himself, "I'll make it as a professional golfer." Minutes later, though, he recanted, telling himself, "Give it one more try. I'll concentrate on meeting the ball, forget the fences and see what happens."

Through July 31, the date of his 0-for-6 in Pittsburgh, Davis was hitting .260/.323/.435 with 8 home runs.  After that date, the "forget the fences" approach paid off for Davis, as he hit .369/.394/.479 with just three homers the rest of the season.  At home, despite hitting no home runs, Davis was still very productive, almost indistinguishable from his road production:

Split PA 2B 3B HR BA/OBP/SLG OPS
Home 214 11 4 0 .335/.379/.431 .810
Away 326 12 4 11 .296/.340/.472 .812
Totals     540 23 8 11 .311/.356/.456 .811

It was an odd year, to be sure, for Willie Davis.  During his 14-year Dodger career, he hit 57 home runs at home compared to 97 on the road, but 1969 was an even more extreme case of home field disadvantage.  Will his obscure record stand?  We have 22 games left this season to find out.

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