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Willie Davis and his error-filled inning

Willie

Willie Davis, the gifted baseball player who roamed center field for the Dodgers from 1960 to 1973, was found dead Tuesday at his home in Burbank at age 69.

Davis was a bright offensive star for the Dodgers, hitting in 31 consecutive games in 1969. But many will remember the day in 1966 when he made three errors in one World Series game. On Oct. 6, 1966, against the Baltimore Orioles, Davis lost three fly balls in the sun at Dodger Stadium. 

According to reporter Charles Maher's account in The Times the next day, Davis came back to the dugout after the inning and told pitcher Sandy Koufax, "I'm sorry, I just lost them in the sun."

Koufax said: "Don't let it get you down."

Pitcher Don Drysdale said: "Hell, forget it. ... You've saved a lot of games for me with great catches."

Read the rest of the story here. And you'll find Jim Murray's column from that day here.

The Dodgers wound up making six errors total that day and were swept by the Orioles in four games.

A full obituary will appear later at www.latimes.com/obits.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: Willie Davis in 1970. Credit: Associated Press

 
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Why bring up Willie Davis' three errors in one inning at this time? Why not instead focus on how he played mostly stellar defense for the Dodgers during his playing career, stole bases, and had much more than just timely hits during his tenure. Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, along with all of the other Dodgers of that era, knew just how valuable Willie Davis was to the Dodgers. He was there when I first became a baseball and Dodger fan, and "Three Dog" rarely disappointed. Everybody has a bad day now and then, but it's the total sum of the man's career that should be respected and celebrated at this time.

One of his three errors was a throwing error to third base after he muffed a fly ball.

He was great. One of the best Dodgers ever. I loved this guy...along with Tommy Davis, his outfield partner. And could he run. I certainly didn't remember the errors, and won't, but I will always remember him.


That was quite a day for Willie and the Dodgers, who suffered through a 4 game sweep at the hands of the Orioles, but the series was a lot closer then it looked. And perhaps it might have been winnable but for the events that preceded it. Most have forgotten that the Dodgers were in Philadelphia on the last day of the 1966 season, needing one win in a scheduled double header to clinch the pennant. Drysdale and Koufax were scheduled to pitch, with the plan that if Don won game one Sandy would be saved for the coming World Series. Unfortunately Drysdale was not his usual reliable self and lasted only two innings of a Dodgers defeat, that also used up the services of Ron Perranoski and Phil Regan, who were similarly ineffective.

Thus Koufax, pitching on only two days rest, was used in game two. Sandy demonstrated his usual brilliance, besting current U. S. Senator and fellow Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, despite pitching in pain from a shoulder that had popped out in mid game. Sandy pitched a complete game victory, yielding three runs in the 9th, two earned, after pitching 8 shutout frames. The combination of the importance of the game, and the unavailability of the team's two top relievers, had made this perhaps a pyrrhic victory. The Dodgers had won, but Sandy would be unavailable for game one of the series two days hence.

The only game the Dodgers would score in was that first game. Had Sandy been available he might have secured that win and changed the course of the series. In the fateful game 2, after singer Eddie Fisher's stirring rendition of the national anthem, nothing else went right. Sandy pitched well enough to win, but Willie's horrible day led to three unearned by Koufax, and actually the fourth should have been so credited as Jim Murray pointed out, but for the compassion of the official scorer. And Willie was not alone in his inepititude as the Dodgers combined to make 6 errors that afternoon setting a series one game record.

The Dodgers then lost the next two games by margins of 1-0 on two Oriole solo homers. In game three, apparently shaken by Davis' nightmare of the prior game, leftfielder Lou Johnson embarrassed the usually reliable Davis, but cutting in front of Willie to catch an easy flyball. However in game four, Willie redeemed himself and reminded the baseball world of what a skilled fielder he actually was, when he completed a running catch by leaping high above the outfield fence to rob Boog Powell of a homerun and keep the contest razor close.

Had the events of that Sunday that preceded the World Series gone just a little differently, Koufax would have been able to pitch in game one of the series and perhaps things would have gone so differently for the team. With the Dodgers down by only one game going into game four and Koufax again on the mound it is quite possible the story of that series could have been so different. And had the Dodgers eventually emerged as the victors, Willie's debacle of a day might have been something both Mr. Davis and Dodgers, and the fans as well, would have been able to recall with the humor laded joy of the victorious.


Willie was my idol as a kid in the 60's and hence, my favorite number has been '3'. To watch him literally circle the bases as fast as he did into a triple or inside the park homer, was the most exciting sporting event I've ever seen!

This was a kids Dream..My Dream.. T.Davis, W.davis, F.Howard, R.Perranoski , M.Wills, J.Roseboro, W.Moon, G.Hodges, W.Alston..
Went a a World Series Game 1961? ..My Mom was dropped off by my Dad at 4:30 am to wait in line..I caught a Ball at the First world series at the new Stadium.. at the Third base line, with my Little League Micky Mantle Glove( still have it)...last year I met Tommy Davis at the City of Hope.. and recited all the team names to him.. He said "Glad someone remembers" WE WILL NEVER FORGET..as Kids this was our Dream.. Thanks..jja


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