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George Davis (baseball player)

From Academic Kids

George Stacey Davis (August 23, 1870 - October 17, 1940) was a shortstop and manager in Major League Baseball at the turn of the 20th century. Davis also spent multiple seasons as a third baseman and center fielder, and lesser amounts of time at other positions.

Playing career

Born in Cohoes, New York, Davis started playing professional ball in Albany in 1889. Purchased by the Cleveland Spiders the following year, Davis patrolled center field for the first two seasons of his career, leading the National League in outfield assists with 35 in 1890. Davis's strong throws ultimately led the team to move him to third base in 1892, a position he would call home for the next five seasons.

The Spiders traded Davis to the New York Giants for aging star Buck Ewing shortly before the 1893 season, and Davis blossomed in New York. With league rules moving the pitcher's mound back to 60 feet, 6 inches that season, offensive totals jumped across the league, and Davis was at the forefront of the surge. He compiled a .355 batting average and set career highs with 27 triples and 11 home runs. He also collected 22 doubles and 37 stolen bases, while scoring 112 runs and driving in 119.

The bizarre behavior of owner Andrew Freedman hampered the team's performance in subsequent seasons, but Davis continued to perform at an elite level throughout the 1890s, regularly ranking among the league leaders in doubles, triples, RBI, and stolen bases. He became the team's regular shortstop in 1897 and quickly demonstrated an aptitude for the position, ultimately leading the league in double plays and fielding percentage four times each.

The formation of the American League afforded new financial opportunities to ballplayers, and induced by a $4,000 salary, Davis jumped to the Chicago White Sox in 1902. He attempted to jump back to the Giants after that season for a further raise to $6,700 (the second-highest figure in the league, after that of Nap Lajoie), but was prevented by the implementation of a peace agreement between the warring leagues. Davis sat out the bulk of the 1903 season before returning to the White Sox, with whom he spent the remainder of his career. His raw offensive statistics from this time pale before those of his earlier career, but when properly compared to a drastic league-wide decline in offense, they remain impressive. His decline began for real in 1907, though, and he retired after the 1909 season.

His 163 triples all-time ranks him tied for 33rd, with Nap Lajoie, Lou Gehrig, and Bill Dahlen.

Personal notes

During his playing career, Davis enjoyed a reputation as an intelligent and hard-working player who did not participate in the dirty play then practiced by many of his contemporaries. The public's perception of his character was also bolstered by his heroic actions on April 26, 1900. While on their way to practice at the Polo Grounds, Davis and teammates Kid Gleason and Mike Grady stumbled upon a raging tenement fire. The ballplayers rushed into the burning building, and Davis was responsible for the rescue of two women and a three-year-old child from a blaze that ultimately left 45 families homeless. In a characteristically modest statement, Davis said, "I didn't do much. I just went up the ladder the same as the rest of the boys and helped to carry down women and children ... I didn't do half as much as Grady and Gleason." His face blistered from the heat, Davis then helped his mates earn 10-10 tie with the Boston Beaneaters in that evening's game.

Davis vanished into obscurity after his retirement. He worked in baseball as a coach, scout, and manager, while also working at a variety of other jobs that included stints as a professional bowler and an automobile salesman. The circumstances of his death remained a mystery until baseball historian Lee Allen discovered its details through a campaign to track down historical baseball players, run in part in The Sporting News.

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