Two-time National League batting champion Tommy Davis, whose baseball path as a high school standout was altered by a phone call from Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, passed away Sunday night at the age of 83.
Davis, who was born March 21, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York, died in Phoenix with his family at his bedside.
Davis won back-to-back batting titles with the Dodgers in 1962 and 1963 and holds the single-season club records with 230 hits and 153 RBI.
The Brooklyn native was the first batting champion in the history of the Los Angeles franchise, winning consecutive titles in 1962 (.346) and 1963 (.326). His 230 hits and 153 RBI in 1962 remain L.A. single-season records. He was a member of three Dodger championship teams in 1959, 1963 and 1965.
Davis played 18 years in the Majors including eight years with the Dodgers from 1959-1966. He was a hit in the Dodgers’ new stadium in 1962 as he won the batting title with a .346 average along with 27 doubles, 27 homers, 153 RBIs. He led the league in hits and RBI.
He followed that up in 1963 by leading the league again with a .326 average with 16 homers and 88 RBI.
Davis was a three-time World Champion as a Dodger in 1959, 1963 and 1965 and also earned All-Star honors.
In addition to his play with the Dodgers, Davis also played for the New York Mets (1967), Chicago White Sox (1968), Seattle (1969), Houston (1969-70), Oakland (1970, 1971), Chicago Cubs (1970, 1972), Baltimore (1972-75), California (1976) and Kansas City (1976).
Davis was a baseball and basketball standout at Boys High School in New York and was set to sign with the Yankees in 1956. Robinson, playing in what would be his final MLB season with the Dodgers in 1956, called Davis at home and encouraged him to sign with the Brooklyn organization. Scouting director Al Campanis also knew Tommy’s mother was a Brooklyn fan.
“My mother wondered who was calling,” Davis said during a 2019 interview. “I pointed to the receiver and mouthed the words, “IT’S JACKIE ROBINSON!” I couldn’t believe I was speaking to one of my heroes, although I don’t remember doing much talking.”
Davis received a $4,000 bonus. While his athletic talents were obvious, a former Brooklyn Dodger batting champion worried Davis might be too nice. The late Pete Reiser, the manager at Class D Kokomo, IN of the Midwest League, was not happy when Davis smiled for his publicity photos for his first full season in 1957. “I want him mad at everyone in the world when he goes up there, including me,” said Reiser. In 127 games, Davis batted .357 with 17 home runs, 104 RBI and 68 stolen bases.
He finished his career with a .294 lifetime average in 1,999 games with 153 home runs and 1,052 RBI.
Davis, who worked for the Dodgers’ Community Relations team, is survived by his wife Carol, five children (Lauren, Carlyn, Leslie, Herman Thomas III and Morgana Davis) and 17 grandchildren.
Funeral services are pending.