At the dawn of the 1980s, I was an eleven-year old kid living in Springfield, Illinois. And at the end of the 1980s, I was a 21-year old who wanted to live as far away as possible. You might say I passed through the crucible of youth that decade, going from 7th grader to college senior in the bat of an eye. And my oldest is getting ready to do the same in this decade. Life goes on.
I didn’t have access to major league games in 1980, but the Triple-A Springfield Redbirds were close enough. These were guys on the verge of making it to the majors, and some of them even had long careers: Tom Herr, Ken Oberkfell, Leon Durham, and a few others whose names you may or may not know. I even got to see Mark Fidrych pitch as he was trying to get back to the majors in 1980. It was an exciting time for a young kid.
At the tail end of the 1979 season, the Cardinals organization traded for a young catcher named Jody Davis, who I saw play in a game at the end of the 1980 season. The Cardinals apparently gave up on him, but by 1981 he had surfaced with the Cubs on their major league roster, replacing Barry Foote as the everyday catcher. His popularity grew with Cubs fans, especially when Harry Caray became the Cubs announcer and took to serenading him on the air (to the tune of the Davy Crockett theme)
Joe-Dee, Jody Davis! King of the home run ball!
Davis was one of the Cubs’ main stars on the 1984 team that won the first division title in franchise history. He was also was the Cubs’ everyday catcher through most of the 1980s, but the shelf life of a catcher is usually shorter than for other position players, because of all the abuse they take behind the plate. By the end of the 1988 season, Davis was traded away to the Atlanta Braves. It was hard to see such a well-loved player go, but that’s how it is in pro sports.
But there’s a postscript to this story. During the 1989 season, my brother–who was itching to get out of the house for a weekend, I’m sure–came to visit me on campus, and we ended up at Wrigley Field (where else were we going to go?). We were outside the ballpark on Addison near Sheffield, when a cab pulled up and out came Jody Davis. The two of us nearly flipped out, and our first instinct was to get a picture with him.
My brother went up and stood next to him, while I did the honors with the camera. He was off in a flash (no pun intended) to go inside the clubhouse, but we felt like whatever happened at the game itself, it had already been a success because of the Jody Davis sighting.
Like Jim Morrison in the 1970s, Jody Davis’ baseball career in the 1990s didn’t last for very long. He’s now managing in the Cubs’ minor league system, and he’s a nostalgic figure for all Cubs fans from that decade. And if the 1989 me could travel back in time to tell the 1980 Jody Davis how it would all turn out, I have to believe that he’d be pretty pleased.