Mike Davis had a difficult 1988 season, making him an unlikely person to set the stage for one of the greatest moments in Los Angeles Dodgers World Series history.
Bottom of the ninth inning. Two outs. No runners aboard. Dodgers trailing 4-3. On the mound for the Oakland Athletics, Dennis Eckersley, American League Cy Young Award runner-up, whose 45 saves led the majors that year. With Alfredo Griffin due to bat, Mike Davis was sent up to pinch-hit. Light-hitting Dave Anderson took up residence in the on-deck circle, ready to bat for the pitcher.
Davis had struggled through a horrific season at the plate (.260 OBP) and success against Eckersley (0.867 WHIP) seemed unlikely. The opening-day right-fielder fouled the one strike he saw straight back. Then Davis did something small, but momentous. As he later told the Los Angeles Times,
"And all I did was walk."
Anderson was called back, and instead, Kirk Gibson slowly made his way from the dugout to be the pinch-hitter instead.
And Dodgers history was made.
How acquired: The Dodgers signed Davis as a free agent prior to the 1988 season. The two-year, nearly $2 million deal narrowly nosed out the New York Yankees offer for Davis' services. (Davis' agent for this negotiation was Louis Burrell, who had a somewhat famous brother named Stanley, AKA M.C. Hammer. In fact, according to Ebony Magazine, Davis was a factor in starting Hammer's career, lending the rapper $20,000 to help launch Hammer's first company, Bust It Productions.)
Prior MLB experience: Davis spent parts of eight seasons in the majors with the A's prior to joining the Dodgers, the last five as a full-time player. His cumulative batting line with them was .267/.319/.433, but in the last three seasons he batted .274/.328/.469 and clouted 65 home runs while playing his home games in the cavernous Oakland Coliseum.
1988 age: 29
1988 stats: Davis began the year as the starting right-fielder, but an extended slump cost him his starting job. At season's end he had hit an anemic .196/.260/.270 (54 OPS+) with only 15 extra-base hits (two home runs) while starting an unexpectedly low 63 games.
Regular season game of the year: On May 8, Davis was 4 for 6 with a double, triple and three RBIs as the Dodgers routed the Cardinals 12-6. This was the first contest in a four-game stretch where Davis would hit .476/.500/.619 and in 22 plate appearances collect 10 hits, or over 18% of his season total of 55.
NLCS performance: Davis appeared in four games and was 0-2 with a walk at the plate. That walk was the second of three consecutive walks that gave the Dodgers a short-lived one-run lead in Game 1, just prior to the infamous pine-tar incident that helped trigger a Mets comeback.
World Series performance: In addition to his role in Game One, Davis wound up starting the last three games of the Fall Classic and hit .143/.455/.571 for the series. In Game Four he twice reached base on error during scoring rallies and in the final game, his two-run home run in the third inning off A's starter Storm Davis pushed the Dodgers to what would prove to be an insurmountable lead of 4-1.
Post-1988 playing career: Davis played part-time in 1989 and missed some time with a left knee injury, hitting .249/.309/.387 in 191 plate appearances spread across 67 games, then never again played at the major league level. His playing career ended after short minor-league stints in 1990 and 1991.
Where he is now: Davis served as a minor-league hitting coach in the San Diego Padres organization from 2002 to 2005. As of 2009 he was working selling insurance while looking for new baseball opportunities.