Happy Birthday, John “Daisy” Davis!

“…[U]ntil yesterday no one had the faintest idea that Davis could pitch, that is, good enough to put in the box against the Philadelphia heavy hitters. The fact was developed that Davis is a ball tosser and a daisy at that.”

“Joe Hornung’s Home Run,” Boston Globe, June 12, 1885: 2.

John Henry Albert Davis was born November 28, 1858 to William and Annie (Shirreffs) Davis in Boston – dad was a blacksmith and shipwright while mom raised five kids of which John was the youngest. The Davis parents were likely immigrants, but not very clear based on US Census data, which also suggests they had a stop in New Hampshire prior to moving to Boston around 1856 (or the Boston area) for the rest of their lives. (1870 and 1880 says William was from Nova Scotia and Annie was from Scotland while 1860 says New Hampshire, for example.) Anyway – Davis grew up in a huge baseball town and by the time he was old enough to start playing at least on good town teams he was working as a blacksmith.

“The feature of the game was the pitching of Davis, who struck out nine men. His delivery transcended the rules, being considerably above the shoulder, but no objection was made to it.”

“St. Louis, 6; Toledo, 3,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 7, 1884: 8.

In 1884, Davis lands on the St. Louis Browns, a very good team with a pretty full roster of decent pitchers. He won his first start over Toledo, with errors marring his first inning, but he didn’t allow a run the rest of the way. However, with the highest ERA and a 10 – 12 record, the Browns decided that they didn’t need a fifth starter and he’s allowed to move to Boston for the rest of the season.

Except, of course, that Daisy Davis was a pretty good pitcher. He had the best K/9 data, didn’t walk that many batters, and probably had room to improve. His best start was likely a four hit shutout of Cincinnati on July 23rd where he fanned five and walked one. Instead, he got shelled a little with his home club as 1884 finished and he wasn’t used all that much in 1885 – the Boston Nationals had two solid starters who split 100 starts down the middle. Davis’s last major league start was a 1 – 0 win over Buffalo in a game shortened to five innings by rain on July 29, 1885. The diminutive Davis (he’s listed as 5′ 6″ and 150 pounds) took a job pitching for Toronto, at allegedly at the highest salary in the International Association, and went 16 – 7 with good strikeout and control numbers in 1886. According to a Utica sourced article published in the St. Joseph Daily Gazette, Davis had a rather interesting delivery.

“Davis, the Toronto pitcher, pitched effectively. His delivery consists of a short Indian club exercise, two sing and dance steps and a hop, step and jump, but the ball gets there just the same. The puzzling nature of his delivery proved a stumbling block to the eleven of the Uticas who struck out.”

“Outside the Diamond,” St. Joseph Daily Gazette, August 31, 1886: 3.

You’d think that SOMEBODY would have given the righthander a chance following that. Instead, he became a bit of a pitching nomad, pitching for the Portsmouths in 1888 – the Kansas City Times noting that by early July he had yet to suffer a defeat there. After that, Davis’s career appears to have ended.

He went home to his wife, the former Minnie Brown (she was eight years younger than John). They moved to Lynn, MA where Davis became a clerk until the fall of 1902, when pneumonia (or tuberculosis, per FindAGrave.com) took him to the next league on November 5, 1902.

Sources:

1860, 1870, and 1880 US Censuses
1865 Mass. Census
Massachusetts birth
Massachusetts marriage records
Massachusetts death records

Baseball-Reference.com
https://www.statscrew.com/minorbaseball/stats/p-c9c42a57

“St. Louis, 2; Cincinnatis, 0,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 24, 1884: 8.

“Was it the Rain?,” Boston Globe, July 30, 1885: 2.

“Outside the Diamond,” St. Joseph Daily Gazette, August 31, 1886: 3.

“Hits Outside the Diamond,” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, September 5, 1886: 3.

“Base Ball Briefs,” Kansas City Star, July 8, 1888: 3.

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