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One .300 Season, One 8th-Place Vote

One of the first Mets cards I ever had my hands on was this one, of Tommy Davis [1], newly acquired outfielder for 1967. By the time my familiarity with baseball and my baseball team caught up to my earliest collecting, Tommy Davis was somewhere else. He always was. In eighteen Major League seasons, he landed on ten different clubs. The Mets were the second of them.

Tommy was a stud with the Dodgers, particularly in 1962 when he drove in 153 runs and batted .346, leading L.A. to a tie with the Giants at the end of the regular season (the flag went to San Francisco in a three-game playoff, à la 1951). Injury and age made him eventually available to the Mets, who traded Ron Hunt and Jim Hickman for Davis following the 1966 campaign.

I bring this up because Tommy was a guest on Ed Randall’s Talkin’ Baseball on WFAN Sunday morning, recalling fondly his one season as a Met, even though that season was 1967 (61-101), because it represented a homecoming for the Brooklyn native. It wasn’t a bad year at all for Davis who batted .302 for the cellar-dwellers, topping the power-starved Mets in homers with 16 and RBI with 73. For his efforts, he received a single eighth-place vote in the National League Most Valuable Player balloting, good for three points, the strongest MVP endorsement any Mets position player collected in the franchise’s first six seasons.

Given the emphasis on batting average in those days, he probably wouldn’t have drawn even that much support had he not topped .300, a benchmark he cleared by .002 — and it was closer than it appeared, according to what Tommy told Randall. He was playing in the 161st game of the season and batting right around .300 when he stepped out of the box and had a word with Dodger catcher and former teammate John Roseboro. Roseboro wanted to know if something was wrong. Yeah, Davis said, look at the scoreboard, alluding to his average, which was an even .300 and teetering on the edge of ignominy considering the opposing pitcher was Don Drysdale.

“Why didn’t you say so?” Roseboro asked. “What do you want?”

Davis wanted a fastball, of course. As the Dodgers were going nowhere, Roseboro obliged and called for the heat. Davis doubled. His average rose. An inning later, he came out of the game and for the year, his .300+ preserved for posterity.

(The boxscore [2] indicates Roseboro entered the game as a pinch-hitter after Davis left and that Jeff Torborg was catching when Tommy came up, but let’s not ruin a great story with silly accuracy.)

As reward for batting .302, Tommy Davis was traded after the season, to the White Sox as part of the bounty that brought the Mets Tommie Agee, Al Weis and a miracle to be named not too much later. Confronted by the turn of events that occurred in New York after he was sent away, Davis suggested to Randall he’s due at least half a 1969 World Series ring for his in-kind contribution to the Amazin’ cause. The laughter in his voice just about matched the smile on his face as pictured here from forty-plus years ago.