Jim Davenport Remembered
It was a big deal for me, talking to a major league player for the first time, but Davenport made it easy, talking to me as if we were just two young men having a conversation. We were of the same generation – he was just two years older – but our positions were quite different. He was the third baseman on a major league team; I was a sportswriter in a small town.
But that was Jim Davenport. I’ve met many major league players since but never met one as unpretentious. I never knew anybody who disliked him, on the Giants or on other teams. The Giants of that era were split because of the many Latinos on the club but Felipe Alou spoke for the other Latinos when he said Davenport was the one player he was closest to, other than his fellow Latinos.
He was also an important part of the Giants, playing outstanding defense at third base. He wasn’t a power hitter but he was adept at the hit-and-run, a favorite of managers in that era, and he could hit to the opposite field to keep rallies alive.
Davenport’s entire 13-year career was with the Giants – he had the first at-bat in a San Francisco game in 1958 – and he played on the Giants’ one World Series team in the early years, in 1962.
After his retirement, he continued to work for the Giants in various capacities, from major league coach to minor league manager.
In 1985, he got his one shot at being a major league manager, hired by his friend, Tom Haller, who had just become the general manager and had fired Frank Robinson, though Robinson, the first black manager in the majors, had been doing a good job.
As much as I liked Davenport, I didn’t think he’d be a good manager, and I wrote that. Dave Newhouse, writing a column for The Oakland Tribune, wrote that Davenport was a good choice and “you can’t judge a cake before it’s baked.” Well, you can, if it has the wrong ingredients.
Davenport was fired when the Giants were at 56-86, on their way to the only 100-loss season in San Francisco history. The next year, Al Rosen and Roger Craig came in and ushered in another successful period in Giants history.
That was the only blip on an otherwise sterling career, on and off the field, for Davenport. He continued to work for the Giants in other capacities until his retirement and he is fondly remembered within the organization.
And, he’s also fondly remembered by me for his kindness when I was just beginning to find my way.
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