Growing up, I had a fascination with a particular Orioles outfielder who would constantly raise the roof. This man had seen it all. Kidney lacerations, cancer diagnoses, recoveries--you name it, he'd probably dealt with it. By this point, Eric Davis was a punchline to some, mainly because of his constant "bad luck." To others, he was that guy you'd bring up in bar trivia and no place else. "Who was third in steals behind Vince Coleman and Rickey Henderson during the 1986 MLB season?" or "who was, aside from Rickey Henderson (you're seeing a pattern here), the only player to hit 25 home runs and steal 80 bases?"
To me, he was a hero. He was the guy I paid money to go see at Orioles games. He's the guy who I modeled my own baseball game after, even adopting "24" as my number whenever I played sports. He was, even though he only played two years in Baltimore (many will remember him forever as Eric the Red), the epitome of what it meant to be an Oriole, what it meant to be a Baltimorean. Yes, it was partly because of the cancer thing. I mean, you try to recuperate and then supersede expectations after going through colon cancer treatment. Baseball player or not, cancer's a mean-spirited SOB who deserves to be drug out into the street and shot at point-blank range. So, for Eric Davis to battle back in 1997 and then have a career year in 1998, it inspired me to say "I, too, can achieve greatness." But, there's another reason why Davis is one of my favorite players.
It's what he represents.
As I mentioned, he was the epitome of the Baltimore spirit. He wasn't the greatest of all-time, but he played his butt off and had the potential to be one of the all-time greats. When he had the ability to use that potential, few could touch him, in my opinion. I mean, this is a guy who, at 36, managed to obtain the Orioles record for hitting streaks. That's something that even Cal can't say he's done. But, biases aside, he was a great player. He made it into the Reds' Hall of Fame in 2005 and should have a plaque of some sort at OPACY, if only for the "I kicked cancer in the face and helped uplift a city" aspect of it all.
But Davis' awesomeness lives on in Baltimore. Just look to center field to see a young man who's got all the skills of Davis, minus the 80-steal-caliber speed. I'm, of course, referring to Adam Jones. Now, if only we can get Adam to raise the roof every once in a while...