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Peter O'Malley remembers Willie Davis

Peter Peter O’Malley would stroll across balmy Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla., and could spot the lanky Willie Davis with his loping strides coming 50 yards away.

There would be a wave of the hand, and then Willie’s unmistakable baritone.

"Back then when the players would all be on camp and not have cars, he’d always ask me, 'Hey, Peter, are you going to use your car tonight?' And I’d say, 'No, Willie, you can use it,'"’ O’Malley said.

During Davis’ 14 years with the Dodgers, O’Malley went through various roles with the team -- director of Dodgertown, general manager of Triple-A Spokane, director of Dodger Stadium operations, executive vice president, team president and then finally co-owner of the team with his sister, Terry Seidler.

O’Malley saw a lot of players come and go before he sold the team in 1998, yet Willie Davis seems to hold a special place.

"I can see him running," O’Malley said. "See him running the bases, running in the field."

This was long before Davis would be traded by the Dodgers in 1974, long before he would finish his career with the Angels, before his hard battles with crack cocaine.

O’Malley can remember when Davis was just a raw project out of Los Angeles’ Roosevelt High School, known as much as a track star as anything.

But Kenny Myers, a legendary scout who developed many hitting techniques still used today, recognized Davis’ talent.

"I remember Kenny Myers, an old-school scout, who saw the future in Willie and worked with him tremendously, worked until there was spectacular progress," O’Malley said.

Scouts normally would sign a player and then disappear from their lives.

"This was an exception," O’Malley said. "It was unusual. Kenny had the approval of [manager] Walter Alston. He told him, 'You work with Willie. He’s your project.'"

Davis flourished in a pitchers' ballpark, though never quite satisfying everyone who saw in him almost limitless potential.

"It’s not fair," O’Malley said. "Willie had a terrific career. People would always say, 'He should hit .300. He should do this, he should do that.' He was an outstanding ballplayer. He worked and practiced hard."

O’Malley said some of the best times they spent together was during the six weeks every spring at Dodgertown.

"I got a chance to really know him in Vero Beach during spring training, back when the whole organization was there," he said. "We’d see each other around Dodgertown. and he’d give me his big 'Hello.'

"Sometimes we’d go play nine holes together. He was just a great golfer. He’d always offer me a few tips that somehow I’d always quickly forget."

Davis died Tuesday at age 69, alone in his Burbank apartment.

"Everybody liked Willie," O’Malley said. "I can’t imagine someone not liking him. He was memorable. I was fortunate to know him.

"Just a very likable guy. I’m going to miss him."

 -- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Willie Davis, left, and Peter O'Malley pose in the dugout at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 30, 1970.

 
Comments () | Archives (18)

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Willie Davis was one of the greatest centerfielders ever! The Dodgers were lucky to have him. They would not have been in the World Series in 1963, '65 and '66 without him. They won it all in '63 and '65 and Willie was a big reason for that. The world is not as interesting without him.

A player that produced for the Dogers for 14 years. Goodby 3-Dog.

Glad I got to see him play. He was a such a graceful athlete. Rest in peace, Mr. Davis.

As a 10 year old kid I got to meet Willie Davis after seeing my first ballgame at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers clinched the pennant that day with Sandy Koufax on the mound. It was just a brilliant day to be a Dodger fan! A bunch of kids hung arund outside the gate to see if we could get autographs. Mostly the "big name" players either snuck out some other way or had their car pull up so close to the gate that they could slip into the car with no contact with the fans (all kids)! Except Willie Davis. Willie srode right out into the swarm of us and said "Come out to my car and I'll sign for you". He was parked out where the fans park. So, we all followed him out there, WIllie carrying his paper cup filled with celebratory champaign. At his car he hande me the cup asking if I'd hjold it for him while he signed every kid's momento.I gave him back his champaign, he signed my "pennant" and off he went. That was Willie Davis, just a nice guy.

Willie Davis as a younger man lived in a Boyle Heights housing project and attended Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles. I had the priviledge and pleasure to work with Willie and his brother Tommy (unrelated to Dodger Great Tommy Davis) at Sports Collector Mall Shows following his baseball career.

Willie was a diehard Lakers fan and a gentle man. You will be missed but the great memories that you gave all Dodgers fans will live on. May the Lord take you under His wing and may He protect Tommy and the Davis family.

My father (born in 1907) loved, loved, loved the Koufax-Drysdale-Davis-Wills era Dodgers. I took my 7-year old son to the Koufax-Torres event because my father instilled that loved in me, his daughter. I told him about Sandy, Don, Willie, Maury and all the other boys in blue. Rest in peace Mr. Davis and say hi to my dad up there.

Willie Davis is my favorite all-time baseball player. He always gave it his all: Whether it meant using his blazing speed to take the extra base, or making a spectacular catch, Willie made coming to Dodger Stadium special. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.

thats a nice story, it was nice when the family owned the dodgers. its too bad about the gouging woman who is bent on ruining the franschise just so she can get as much money as she can from her husband.

that era of the dodgers WAS, AND STILL is my favorite. koufax, drysdale, wills, three dog, junior gilliam, roseboro, hondo, lefevre, o'steen, parker, sweet lou johnson. i can still remember the giants/dodger games on my parents black and white tv from candlestick park. willie "d" was one of the most exciting l.a. players EVER! i especially loved watching him stretch doubles into triples. he could really fly! RIP three dog!

I grew up with Willie and Drysdale, Koufax. My first world series was the 63 sweep of the Yankees. Remember Willie for a lot of exciting times in my Dodger memory, he will be missed and remembered for a long time!
Paul

This was really sad news for me and countless others. I have some specific memories of 3-dog. I remember the 1973 all-star game (i believe 1973) and Willie hit a home run off of Nolan Ryan, and when he crossed home plate, he looked back at Ryan and jestered and said something to him, as if to say, "Yea, I got you this time".

A couple of years ago, I went to an RBI (reviving baseball in the inner city) function out at Universal City, and met and took a picture with Willie. I'll always remember how nice he was this night.

Willie, you will be missed!

My sister dated Wes Parker. She was Miss California in 1966. I met Willie Davis in 1968 and he was a very nice man. What a lot of people don't know is even though he made 3 errors in Sandy Kofax's last game in the World Series os '66 he also made one of the greatest catches I have ever seen, robbing Boog Powell of a grand slam in the same '66 World Series by reaching over the fence by 2' to 3' feet to rob him of a home run.

It was hard following the team after they left Brooklyn, but guys like Willie Davis
Sandy Koufax, Don Drydale, Tommy Davis and others made a good team, probably the best in the N.L.
That more than anything made the burden easier.
Willie will never be forgotten.

great post. Always great to hear/read P. O'Malley quotes. RIP 3-Dog.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and spending a little time with Mr. Davis over the last year or so. As a life-long Dodger fan it was a real thrill to meet and spend time with one of the all time greats. It turns out Willie, an avid golfer, was mentoring my nephew in the game and they had developed the type of relationship depicted in the "Karate Kid" between Mr. Miyage and Daniel. Golf was the game, but life was the real lesson. At 69 3-Dog could still "smoke" the golf ball--his hip speed was incredible. It was amazing to watch him hit balls. We were just planning to get together for a round of golf here in the next couple of weeks when I received the sad news of his passing. I will miss you my friend. Rest in peace. Tony

I was in high school at the same time as Willie Davis and he was the best athlete I ever saw. My peers and I thought that baseball was his worst sport as he was not much of a hitter but had blazing speed. Obviously, the scouts saw something in him that we did not. At that time, basketball was his best sport. It would have been interesting to see him compete at the collegiate level. His passing just reminds me of how old I am getting. RIP, Willie.

he used to play in Japan which is my hometown team called "Dragons", and he made a running home-run at that time.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oefZxQJz93c

I am a little prayer for him.

ur a very good player



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