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MOMENT OF GLORY WAS BRIEF, BUT THE MEMORY WASN'T

Otis Allen Davis had exactly one moment in the sun.

April 22, 1946. It was the bottom of the ninth, and the Brooklyn Dodgers lagged by two runs behind the Boston Braves. It was time to tie things up.

The coach threw in Davis as a pinch runner. He was a centerfielder and had just signed with the team. He was the fastest one around.

His first big league game!

He stood on second base, ready to go. But the batter kept fouling up, and Davis slid back twice, triggering an old high school knee injury.

His last big league game.

Davis' ended his career with a batting average of 0.000, but he carved a niche in sports history.

He was featured in Once Around the Bases, a book chronicling one-game players. And just about every week until he died, he'd get an autograph request from different Dodgers fans.

Davis died Monday at age 86. He had congestive heart failure.

"He was a very even-tempered kind of a guy," said his son, Otis Jr. "He didn't ever get high or really low. Although he would never admit it, I think he enjoyed people sending the requests."

Where some might read Davis' story and see broken dreams, he saw it differently.

"It gave him an identity that he never would have had if he didn't play," said his son. "He saw the whole country. He met a lot of nice people, and it was the best time of his life."

Davis was born dirt poor in Arkansas. His mother died when he was a boy.

His father made pennies growing vegetables and working in Southwest Arkansas' coal mines. The kids had bowl haircuts and wore clothes fashioned from burlap sacks. They lived in a house with a dirt floor.

He played sandlot baseball and ran track. In high school, a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals signed Davis with a $250 bonus. Later, he was sold to the Dodgers.

When his baseball career ended, times were tough. Outside sports, he had no skills.

In Rochester, N.Y., he got a low-rung job moving cars around a Buick dealership. Later, he took classes, became a machinist and worked steadily for 30 years.

In the 1980s, Davis and his wife Ann retired to Tarpon Springs, where he found pleasure in cooking, doing crossword puzzles and caring for his grandchildren. He had a golf course condo with a Lincoln Town Car parked out front.

And he had a story to tell again and again - that Dodgers game in 1946.

By the way, Davis and the runner behind him scored, tying it up. The Dodgers won, 5-4.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857.

BIOGRAPHY

Otis Allen Davis

Born: Sept. 24, 1920.

Died: July 23, 2007.

Survivors: Wife, Ann; son, Otis Jr.; granddaughters, Tiffany and Krystal; brother, Richard; sister, Beatrice Cauldwell; many nieces and nephews.

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