Saturday, August 9, 2014

Vic Davalillo (#69)

Vic Davalillo (currently age 78) is one of the 2 oldest living players from 1966 to 1970 that I have not yet featured on one of my blogs. He played for the Indians and five other teams in his 16-year career from 1963 to 1980.

Vic was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1958. After 4 seasons in their minor-league organization (mostly as a pitcher), he was purchased by the Cleveland Indians and converted to an outfielder.

After playing in the minors in 1962, Vic made his major-league debut with the Tribe in April 1963, starting every game in center field through June 12th. By that time he was hitting .304 and was a front-runner for AL Rookie of the year, but was hit by a pitch and suffered a broken wrist. He didn’t return to the lineup until mid-August, and finished his rookie season with a .292 batting average.

Davalillo was the Indians’ starting center fielder for the next two seasons, then shared the position with Chuck Hinton in ’66 and ’67. Back then, I didn't give Davalillo a second thought (probably because he was on the Cleveland Indians, and not named Sam McDowell), but he was 3rd in AL batting in 1965:

When the Indians acquired Jose Cardenal from the Angels prior to the 1968 season, Vic moved to right field, starting 43 games there until his mid-June trade to the Angels for outfielder Jimmie Hall. Davalillo started 66 games for the Angels, mostly in July and August. By September he was relegated to the bench.

In May 1969, Vic moved on to the Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Jim Hicks. With Lou Brock, Curt Flood, and Vada Pinson manning the Redbirds’ outfield, there was little for Davalillo to do. Even the famous departure of Flood after the ’69 season didn’t help him, as the Cards acquired Jose Cardenal, who had taken away Vic’s playing time in Cleveland 2 years earlier. Davalillo rode the bench for his 1 ½ seasons in St. Louis, made 2 appearances as a relief pitcher, but also began his 2nd career as a go-to pinch-hitter.

In January 1971 he and pitcher Nelson Briles were traded to the Pirates for outfielder Matty Alou and pitcher George Brunet. He also played for the Athletics from August 1973 until his release in May 1974. Vic had played in the ’71 World Series with the Pirates, and also in ’73 with the A’s.

He then played ball in Mexico for the rest of 1974 and also in 1975-77. Normally, Mexico or Japan signals the end of the line for someone’s career, but that was not the case for Davalillo.

The Dodgers signed him in August 1977, and was a key pinch-hitter for them for the next 3+ seasons. The Dodgers were well-stocked with pinch-hitters during this time: Davalillo from the left side and Manny Mota (.313 with the Dodgers) from the right side. Vic hit .297 in 158 at-bats for the Dodgers (almost all as a pinch-hitter). Vic hit .333 in both the ’77 and ’78 World Series.

He was released after the 1979 season, and played part of 1980 back in Mexico before the Dodgers re-signed him in July 1980. After his final release following the 1980 season, he once again played in Mexico for the 1981 season.

Vic's older brother Yo-Yo Davalillo played briefly for the Senators in 1953, and for the Reds' AAA team in Havana from 1955-60.

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