Three-Dog Willie Davis Dead at 69

Willie Davis, affectionally known as "Three-Dog" was found dead in his Burbank, Calif., home on Tuesday morning at the age of 69. A neighbor who regularly brought Davis breakfast reportedly discovered the body. A splendid athlete, he never quite reached the heights his admirers felt he should, although over his career in L.A. he ranks in nearly every offensive department.

Dodger owner Frank McCourt made the following statement today regarding the passing of former Dodger outfielder Willie Davis. "Willie Davis went from a local talent at Roosevelt High School to a World Champion center fielder for the Dodgers in just a few years and many of his records still stand today. He was beloved by generations of Dodger fans and remains one of the most talented players ever to wear the Dodger uniform.

"Having spent time with him over the past six years, I know how proud he was to have been a Dodger. He will surely be missed and our sincere thoughts are with his children during this difficult time."  

William Henry Davis was born on April 15, 1940 in Mineral Springs, Arkansas. He was a world-class sprinter at Roosevelt High in Los Angeles when he was spotted by legendary Dodger scout Kenny Myers, who projected Davis as a baseball center fielder.  

The Dodgers signed Davis upon graduation in 1958 and he was in the Major League two years later. Davis spent 14 seasons with the Dodgers from 1960-73 and he remains the Los Angeles franchise leader in hits (2,091), extra-base hits (585), at-bats (7,495), runs (1,004), triples (110) and total bases (3,094).

A left-handed hitter, he also won three Gold Glove Awards and played in the 1971 and 1973 All-Star Games. He set a record that still stands in 1969 with a 31-game hitting streak and was a member of championship teams in 1963 and 1965.

Tagged with the nickname of Three-Dog after an outing at the greyhound race track with then General Manager Buzzie Bavasi, some compared Davis with Willie Mays. He was faster than teammate Maury Wills. But he would never stop tinkering with his batting stance.

"Willie did imitations," wrote Jim Murray. "The only way you could tell it wasn't Stan Musial was when he popped up. But Willie's repertoire included Ted Williams, Billy Williams, Babe Ruth and Babe Herman. He wasn't a ballplayer, he was a chameleon. Sometimes, he imitated three different guys in one night. None of them was Willie Davis. ‘Willie,' Buzzie Bavasi used to ask him, ‘Why don't you arrange it so that somebody imitates you?'"

"I would say to myself, 'This is the year,' then every time I would go back to my old way of doing things."

"Willie Davis, throughout the 1960s, was regarded as a huge disappointment, a player who never played up to his expected ability," Sabermatician Bill James wrote. "As John Roseboro said, ‘He has never hit .330 in his career. But he should have.'"

"Davis was a terrific player," James said. "True, he didn't walk, and he was not particularly consistent – but his good years, in context of the era, are quite impressive. He should not be regarded as a failure, merely because he had to play his prime seasons in very difficult hitting conditions. Dodger Stadium at that time was not an easy park to hit in."

Even when Davis ran off a 31-game hitting streak in the summer of 1969 – the longest streak in baseball since Stan Musial in 1950, it was somehow expected not respected.

After the 1973 season, Davis was traded to Montreal for reliever Mike Marshall, who would win the NL Cy Young Award for the Dodgers as the Dodgers won the 1974 National League pennant. Davis also played short stints in Montreal, St. Louis, Texas and San Diego and Japan and last played in the Majors in 1979 with the Angels.