While you watch the Angels play the Oakland Athletics this weekend, you may recognize Oakland’s hitting coach, Chili Davis. Davis had two stints with the Angels in the 1990s, putting up impressive offensive numbers and having an impact on many of the young talented players the Angels were nurturing at the time.
Chili Davis was born in Jamaica in 1970 and would later become the first player from the island country to become a Major League Baseball player. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was ten years old, and the youngster would soon fall in love with a sport he had never heard of before: baseball. He was later drafted by the San Francisco Giants and spent the first seven years of his career playing for them. He was a two-time All-Star, but when his contract expired, the young slugger yearned to leave Candlestick Park where the cold winds regularly turned home runs into fly outs. He signed with the Angels and played in the outfield for the Halos from 1988 to 1990.
When his contract with the Angels expired, he became a free agent again and signed a two-year deal with the Minnesota Twins to be their designated hitter. This move was a good one for Davis; he helped the Twins beat the Atlanta Braves in the 1991 World Series.
But after his time was up with the Twins, he signed another free agent deal with the Angels, leaving the cold Minnesota clime for the temperate comfort of Southern California. He was an Angel for the next four years, from 1993 until 1996, when he was traded to the Kansas City Royals for starting pitcher Mark Gubicza.
In his seven years as an Angel, Davis averaged 22 home runs, 88 RBI, and 74 runs per season. His best year at the plate for the Halos was in 1993 when he had 27 home runs, 112 RBI, 71 walks, and 74 runs scored.
It was during this 1993 season that manager Buck Rogers had to call Chili in to pitch the eighth and ninth innings of an 18-2 loss to the Texas Rangers. Davis worked two scoreless innings without giving up a hit or a walk. The only base runner he allowed was Jose Canseco, whom he hit with a pitch. After the game, Davis said that he had “a fastball, change-up, forkball, curve, slider, knuckle-slider, and knuckle-curve. . . but the only one working was the fastball. I think it was at about 70 (mph).”
In his book Always an Angel, Tim Salmon wrote, “When I think of the players who have had the most influence on my baseball career, the one who always comes to mind first is Chili Davis.” Salmon said that Davis showed the young players the hard work it took to be an MLB player. According to Salmon, Davis was a “one man college of baseball knowledge” who was always talking strategy and giving pointers to the younger Angels. Right before he would go up to bat, Salmon would go over his approach at the plate with Davis because “it seemed to me at times that Chili could read pitchers’ minds.”
In total, Chili Davis played nineteen years in the Major Leagues and ended up with a .274 batting average, 350 home runs, and 1,372 RBI. At the time of his retirement, he also had the distinction of being only the third switch-hitter in MLB history with at least 350 home runs. (The other two being Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray. Chipper Jones, Lance Berkman, and Carlos Beltran have since joined the exclusive club.)
You can find Davis in many of the Angels’ career leaderboards. His .829 career OPS ranks seventh in Angels history. His 156 home runs is the sixth most ever swatted by an Angel. His 618 RBI places him fifth among the all-time Angels.
While thanks always goes out to baseball-reference.com, I am also grateful to Scott Miller’s June 18, 1993 Los Angeles Times article, “Chili Coolly Shuts Down Rangers.”