George Davis 1870-1940
SS, 3B, CF
Cleveland Spiders 1890-1892
New York Giants 1893-1901; 1903
Chicago White Sox 1902; 1904-1909
Nickname: Gorgeous George
HOF Facial Hair: He grew his handlebars so he could look like his mentor, John Montgomery Ward.
Career WAR: 84.7
Best Season: 1897 .353/.410/.509/.918 144 OPS+ 31 2B 10 3B 10 HR 135 RBI 23 K
Known For: A well rounded player. He batted .300 or better in every season from 1893-1901. He was also very steady in the field.
The Bad: Was the subject of a lengthy and somewhat ugly court battle between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Giants. After both Davis and Giants management ignored the reserve clause so Davis could sign with Chicago in 1902, John McGraw took over for the decided he wanted the star player back. From Davis’ SABR Bio:
The move threatened to destroy the new peace treaty which had been forged between the two leagues that winter. White Sox owner Charles Comiskey threatened legal action. Davis went to Ward who argued, rather disingenuously, considering that he had helped Davis jump his New York contract the previous year, that the reserve clause in Davis’s 1901 Giants contract constituted a legal hold on the ballplayer’s services for the 1902 season, thus overruling any claim the White Sox had on his services. Ward declared Davis was entitled to rejoin the Giants per the new contract. Comiskey counter-attacked by first securing an injunction from an Illinois court, which prevented Davis from playing baseball for any team other than the White Sox in that state. In July, Comiskey obtained another injunction, this one from the U.S. Court of Appeals, which prohibited Davis from playing for any team anywhere other than the White Sox. The National League owners, weary of the dispute, instructed Giants owner John Brush to give up his rights to Davis. In all, the shortstop played only four games for New York that year, and none for Chicago.
Disappearing Act: George Davis was not inducted into the other Hall of Fame until 1998, almost a century after he played. Part of the reason it took so long is that Davis disappeared, not only from the minds of baseball fans, but almost from the face of the earth. Between 1918, when his name was used in a car ad, and 1968 there was no sign of George. It wasn’t until 28 years after Davis’ death that the circumstances of his death were discovered by a historian from the baseball Hall of Fame. It turns out he died in a mental hospital at the age of 70, and his wife had him buried 24 hours later in an unmarked grave.
Enigmatic Relationship: His relationship with his wife and the mysterious circumstances surrounding their marriage/living arrangements was enough to merit its own SABR bio.
WGOM Voter Comments:
“George Davis one day, on his way to the ballpark, saved some kids who were trapped in a burning building, then went on to play in that day’s game afterwards.” – Beau