LOS ANGELES – Former Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Willie Davis was remembered as an electrifying on-field presence and a larger-than-life personality in a memorial service Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
“I like to believe the president saw the news and felt a little sadness,” his daughter, Kim, said in an hour-long service, “as did the mailman, the man at the doughnut shop, the drug addict downtown, and the 45-year-old who remembers the lightning speed of the 3 Dog.”
Davis, 69, spent 14 of his 18 major league seasons with the Dodgers, and was nicknamed “3 Dog” because of his greyhound-like speed, or his love of the dog track in spring training, depending on the telling.
He was part of two championship teams, won three Gold Gloves and remains the franchise leader in hits (2,091), extra-base hits (585), at-bats (7,495), runs (1,004), triples (110) and total bases (3,094). He was found dead in his Burbank, Calif., home on March 9.
Davis was the Pacific Coast League MVP in 1960 for the Spokane Indians, who won the pennant by 111/2 games. Davis led the league in hitting (.346), hits (216) and runs (126).
His service brought together several generations of former Dodgers, including current owner Frank McCourt and former owner Peter O’Malley. Former players in attendance included Maury Wills, Tommy Davis, Lou Johnson, Al Downing, Bill Russell, Ken Landreaux, Ron Cey, Reggie Smith and Lee Lacy.
“He was the only man I’ve ever seen who, when he hit a ball in the gap, the opposing team watched him run,” Johnson said.
Tommy Davis – who was Willie Davis’ roommate on the road and neighbor at home – recalled first meeting his friend during a 60-yard dash staged in spring training.
“I realized he was fast,” Davis said, “because (pitchers) Johnny Podres and Stan Williams were betting on him – and those guys knew how to bet.”
Margie Myers Escandon, daughter of the scout who signed Davis, remembered her father Kenny actually “dancing in the living room,” confident the player would become a star.
Davis left the Dodgers in 1973 and went on to play for the Montreal Expos, Texas Rangers, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres and California Angels.
Beyond his on-field play, Davis was remembered for his deep voice, big laugh and exuberant personality.
“He was one of the most likable Dodgers,” O’Malley said. “The fans liked him. Members of the press liked him and respected him. Management liked him. He was just a likable person. He was the best, and I’m going to miss him.”
Davis’ son, Shonin Casey Davis, said his father once told him he had more fun in his years with the Dodgers “than most people have in a lifetime.”
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