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.