Davis remembered warmly at service
Former teammates, friends honor longtime Dodgers great
LOS ANGELES -- An All-Star team of former Dodgers came to Dodger Stadium on Tuesday morning to remember their late friend and teammate, Willie Davis, who passed away March 8 at age 69.
Maury Wills, Tommy Davis, Reggie Smith, Ron Cey and Lou Johnson were just a portion of former teammates who attended the memorial service along with other friends and family members of the former Dodgers center fielder, who played for the team from 1960-1973, helping the Dodgers win world championships in 1963 and 1965.
"These memorial services can be downers sometimes, but this was just the opposite," said Dodgers owner and chairman Frank McCourt, who sat with general manager Ned Colletti and former owner Peter O'Malley at the service. "This was really a celebration of Willie's life -- a lot of laughs and great memories.
"We're all going to miss him and I was so moved by listening to the comments of so many people who knew him a lot longer than I have. I'll tell you, in the six short years I knew him, he really had an impact on me."
"It was wonderful," said Johnson, who played with Davis in 1965-66 and remained close friends with him. "To have it here at Dodger Stadium was the bottom line. This was his home. He loved the Dodgers. We talked about that a lot. I was glad he was able to come back and work with our speaker's bureau through the McCourt family. He was a wonderful person."
"He was a remarkable man, wonderful man with a great spirit," said former Dodgers general manager, Fred Claire, who first covered Davis early in his career as a sportswriter and would later work with the outfielder when he joined the Dodgers public relations staff in 1969. "He had a great attitude, he loved life -- whether he was up or he was down -- he loved it.
"As a ballplayer he was an incredible talent. Everybody just talks about the talent of Willie Davis, but, if you look in the record book, you will see that that talent was realized. He led the L.A. Dodgers in hits, runs and triples and a number of offensive categories. He was a great player."
His 14 seasons with the Dodgers came at the peak of the championship teams of the 1960s, through some hard times at the end of the decade and the very beginning of the next wave of great teams in the early 1970s.
"He was such a pleasure to watch play and play with him," said former Dodgers first baseman Wes Parker, who played with Davis from 1964-72. "He could run, throw, hit for average and field. The most impressive thing I saw him do was get nine consecutive hits against the San Francisco Giants. We were all in just disbelief."
"Willie treated every player with respect and he made you feel welcomed," said former All-Star Smith, who watched Davis play as a young man growing up in Southern California and was Davis' teammate with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1975. "Willie had it all and he was probably the fastest man I ever saw in baseball."
"You would watch guys who had been in the big leagues a long time, as young players do," said former Dodgers shortstop and manager Bill Russell, who played with Davis from 1969-73. "Just to see how they carry themselves before the game and what routines they do and what they do to get ready to play. For us coming up through the organization, Willie was a great stabilizer for us, not only because he was the captain [in 1973], but he was the 3-Dog, and he helped us along greatly."
To a man in attendance on Tuesday, Davis was remembered as one of the great players and teammates they had ever known. Though the man is no longer here, the memories of his seasons in the sun will live on in those who knew him best.
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.