I like to go outside the box from time to time, and that includes asking my interview subjects to give their interpretations of quotable quotes. I did so last year with Chris Davis — then a Ranger, now an Oriole — and given the quality of his responses, a return engagement seemed in order when his new team visited Fenway Park in September. The jury remains out on the 25-year-old slugger fulfilling his potential with the bat, but when it comes to knocking questions out of the park, he’s proven he can go deep with the best of them.
David Laurila: Ty Cobb once said, “Baseball is a red-blooded sport for red-blooded men. It’s no pink tea, and mollycoddles had better stay out.”
Chris Davis: There are a lot of ways you can go with that, but I think he probably meant that it’s a man’s game. It’s definitely not for the emotionally weak. You play six months out of the year and some of the games can leave you an emotional train wreck if you let them. Frankly, I don’t know how more baseball players aren’t, for lack of a better term, wusses.
DL: According to Sandy Koufax, “Pitching is the art of instilling fear.”
CD: It’s hard for me to buy into that, but I know what he was getting at. It definitely bodes well if you can put a little fear into a batter’s head. A guy that’s a little wild and comes in and buzzes the tower.… Think Randy Johnson throwing behind John Kruk’s head; [Kruk] wanted no part of him after that.
DL: Rogers Hornsby said, ‘I don’t want to play golf. When I hit a ball, I want someone else to be chasing it.”
CD: I was actually talking to a golfer about the difference between the two sports. In baseball, they’re throwing a ball at you, while in golf, it’s sitting there on the tee, nice and easy for you; but golfers also have to play their foul balls. They can’t just throw another one out there, they have to keep going, no matter where they hit it. I have a lot of respect for golfers.
DL: In the words of Bill Veeck, “If you get three strikes, the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.”
CD: A lot of times, this is a game of human error. One of the things that makes this game unique is that sometimes hitters think a pitch isn’t a strike when the umpire says it is. That’s just the way the game goes. The [quote] is very well-stated.
DL: Mayo Smith, who managed the Tigers in the 1960s, said, “Open up a ballplayer’s head and do you know what you’ll find? A lot of little broads and a jazz band.”
CD: There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes that people don’t realize. A lot of thinking goes into baseball — it’s almost like controlled chaos — but there’s more than baseball in there. You can get carried away with everything that’s going on in your head, from what the pitcher is going to throw you to something else entirely.
DL: Duke Ellington opined that, “The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.”
CD: That’s what you try to do. You try to go out and master your skill and not try to do more than you’re capable of, each and every day. A power hitter isn’t going to spend a lot of time bunting and a guy who bunts and gets on base — a table setter — isn’t going to be out there trying to hit home runs. You know what you do well and you try to master it.
DL: T.S. Eliot once wrote, “You are the music while the music lasts.”
CD: Some of the biggest names in the game today, down the road, will still be talked about, but they won’t be the stars of the day. The Adrian Gonzalezes, Prince Fielders and Albert Pujolses will be talked about for a long time, but their shoes will be filled, 15-20 years down the road, by great players who are the new, hip thing.
DL: Journeyman-catcher-turned-broadcaster Joe Garagiola once said, “I went through baseball as a Player To Be Named Later.”
CD: That’s pretty good. He was the type of guy who was always pushed aside, and I can kind of relate to that. It’s our goal to be an All-Star, an MVP, the best hitter or the best pitcher, but a lot of times you’re the Player To Be Named Later, instead. Not everybody’s a star.
DL: Muhammed Ali once said, “It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand, I beat people up.”
CD: I was actually kind of thinking about that earlier today. Ali was more confident with his statement, but we’re all meant to do something. Some people are meant to be lawyers, doctors, businessmen.… We were meant to play baseball. At the end of the day, even with all the hard work, and all the time that goes into it, it’s still just a job. That’s the way you have to look at it. It’s probably one of the more emotional jobs out there, but while it’s what we do, it’s not necessarily who we are.
DL: Jim Bouton said, “You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”
CD: I completely understand that. We put so much emphasis on how we do in this game, and place so much importance on our daily routines and making sure that we’re respected baseball players. It’s at the end, when you have to retire and walk away from everything, that you realize that it was a bigger part of you than you ever thought it was.
DL: Henry David Thoreau said, “Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it’s not fish they’re after.”
CD: You can take that a lot of different ways, but yeah, we’re not necessarily out there trying to catch fish. We’re out here trying to be the best baseball players we can be, but at the same time, there are so many more ways we can reach out to people. We can touch them on different levels. Maybe it’s the way we carry ourselves and the way we go about our business off the field. God has given me the ability to go out and play the game of baseball, but anything that anybody does — anything that lets their talent shine — is through Him. You were given that ability for a reason. That’s one thing that helps me keep my head on my shoulders. It’s good to be respected on the baseball field, but when all is said and done, it’s really about who you are on the inside, and what’s important to you.
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