Uniform Numbers Through the Ages: #12 – Jim Davenport and more

Welcome to the seventh edition of Uniform Numbers Through the Ages, the series that looks at Giants of the past through the lens of their uniform numbers. This edition explores the number 12.


Previous entries: 0-2, 3-6, 7-8, 9, 10, 11


12

Number of Giants to wear this number: 31

Notables: Jim Davenport, Freddie Fitzsimmons, Nate Schierholtz

Most recent: Joe Panik


Uniform Numbers Through the Ages is by nature not a topical series. An unhappy confluence of events, however, means that this edition arrives shortly after the passing of Jim Davenport, the longest tenured #12 in Giants history and a “pillar of the organization”.1

Davenport was an original San Francisco Giant, a product of the great Giants farm system of the era that was being run by previous Uniform Numbers… subject Carl Hubbell.2 The third baseman spent his entire 13-year major league playing career with the organization, pairing an unspectacular bat with, in the eyes of his teammates, league besting defense.

“We thought he was the best third baseman in the league”, said Felipe Alou shortly after Davenport’s death.3 Other contemporary voices agreed. “Boy that kid is some third baseman,” exclaimed Harry Caray after a great Davenport play against the Cardinals in 1962. “Davenport is a big part of this Giants ballclub… [he] is a very, very fine third baseman [who] adds a lot of fire to that infield,” agreed Caray’s colleague Jack Buck. After a great play in the Giants’ 1962 opener, Lon Simmons opined that “they don’t call him the kid with golden glove for nothing!” The Alabama native could certainly pick it, and he showed it on the big stage. His leaping snag of a liner and subsequent pick off throw in Game 3 of the 1962 World Series was a highlight of that series, the only Fall Classic he would appear in.


Davenport’s first game for the Giants coincided with the franchise’s first game in San Francisco. He led off at Seals Stadium, becoming the first batter of the SF era: as Felipe Alou related, Davenport claimed that “we didn’t have anyone else!”3 He later knocked in the Orange and Black’s first ever run with a sac fly off Don Drysdale as the Giants cruised to victory.

Davenport wouldn’t find much success against Drysdale in his career, but hit a more than respectable .290 against Sandy Koufax, which included four home runs. (The only other player he hit four homers against? Roger Craig, who would end up replacing Davenport as Giants manager in 1985.) On his success against Koufax, the ever humble Davenport supposed that “he probably felt sorry for me.”4

1962 was Davenport’s most successful season. A hot start – he was hitting .333 as late as July 16th – earned him the only All-Star berth of his career, and by season’s end his glovework had earned him his sole Gold Glove award. It all added up to a 24th place MVP finish as the Giants went to the World Series. What’s more, Davenport’s ninth inning, go-ahead, bases loaded walk in the rubber game of the Giants-Dodgers three game playoff clinched the pennant for San Francisco.

In all, Davenport played in 1501 games for the Giants, fourth most in San Francisco history, and he played more games at third than anyone in franchise history. He sits between Bobby Thomson and Bobby Bonds in career hits for the Giants.

His longevity at third was impressive enough, but it’s his career post-retirement that is drawing the most attention in the many tributes following his passing. “Peanut” spent five decades in all with San Francisco as a player, coach, manager, roving instructor and scout. “If you cut his veins, red wouldn’t come out. It would be orange and black” said Joey Amalfitano, another long time Giants representative.4

His humility and genial nature earned the respect of all. As a player, his warmth crossed color-lines. He was the “best teammate that I ever had that was not a latino,” said Felipe Alou. He “cared for the minorities, wanted to make us feel like we were from the United States.” continued Alou.3 Willie McCovey concurred. “There was not a prejudiced bone in his body, and that’s what I admired about him so much.” said McCovey.4 “He was just a regular guy.” Davenport had a close friendship with Bobby Bonds and had the great respect of the younger Bonds.4

Davenport wore #12 for the entirety of his playing career. He is featured on the Giants Wall of Fame.


Probably the only Giant to wear the #12 for longer than Davenport is another former player, coach and manager: Dusty Baker. Uniform Numbers Through the Ages only concerns itself with playing staff, but Baker did wear 12 in his sole season as a player for San Francisco, and continued to don the jersey as a coach and manager.

Heading back east to New York finds a number of other interesting characters to wear #12. The aforementioned Joey Amalfitano briefly wore the number in the mid 50s. Amalfitano saw limited playing time early in his career, the result of the bonus baby rule that essentially forced teams to let prospects wither on their major league rosters. He was a member of the World Champion 1954 team, and tells a story of manager Leo Durocher reading through a scouting report ahead of the matchup with the Indians. 5

“After about the third name, he stopped and said, ‘We beat these guys in the spring and we’ll beat them again’ and that was the end of the meeting. He took that scouting report and threw it in the trash.”

When Willie Mays hit four home runs on April 30, 1961, it was Amalfitano’s bat he was using.6 After his playing days Amalfitano spent many years as the third base coach for the Dodgers before rejoining the Giants, where he serves as something of an “evangelist” of the sarifice bunt in the minor league system.7


Another #12, George Hausmann, was one of a number of players to receive five-year bans from Major League Baseball for jumping ship to the rival Mexican League in the 1940s.8 In fact, Giants owner Horace Stoneham was so against the idea of his players going south of the border, he fired Hausmann, among others, for merely talking to Mexican League representatives.9 “We’re going to catch an airplane to Mexico City today since that’s the way the Giants want it,” Hausmann said.10

Eddie Stanky is one the more interesting players to have played the game, and one whose name will be familiar to anyone who has perused the single-season walk leaderboards (given who tops those, I’m assuming that’s at least half the people here). “Muggsy” played second base for the Giants for just two seasons, but racked up an incredible 271 free passes in that time, including 144 in 1950 alone. Those two seasons were good enough to give Stanky the top two spots on the Giants single season walk leaderboard, and as late as 1995 he still held two of the top three spots. Then Bonds Jr. came along and, well, took all the walks for himself.

Still, Stanky’s walk percentage of 20.2% remains second in Giants history. Only Babe Ruth, Bonds, Ted Williams and Stanky have multiple season of 144+ walks. His 144 walk season has been bettered in the NL by only Bonds, Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire and Jim Wynn.

Stanky was also something of a fiery player who would try to gain any advantage he could. In one incident he waved his arms around while standing at second, attempting to put off the batter. The opponent Phillies were none to impressed with this and, after one thing led to another, the police were called in to break up the ensuing brawl.11

Another incident occurred during the 1951 World Series. Stanky, coming up well short of second on a busted hit and run, took the pragmatic approach and kicked the ball out of shortstop Phil Rizzuto’s glove. Stanky was safe, and the play ignited a Giants rally that would win the game.11


Our final stop of this number 12 tour sees us call back to the previous instalment. Keen readers will remember that Carl Hubbell’s #11 was worn originally by “Fat” Freddie Fitzsimmons, who switched to the #12 for the 1933 season. Fitzsimmons wore 12 for the remainder of his Giants career.

Fiztsimmons is one of the longest tenured Giants pitchers. The righty knuckleballer is 4th in wins in franchise history, 4th in innings pitched and 5th in losses… but only 15th in Baseball-Reference WAR and 49th in Wins Above Average. Part of the World Series champion 1933 Giants, Fitzsimmons picked up the only Giants loss in that series.


Oh shoot, still haven’t written about Nate Schierholtz. He had a great arm. He threw people out. It was awesome.


In the next edition: the unsuperstitious few, from Little O to the Guy Over at Third


References:

  1. Chris Haft (Feb 12, 2014). “Giants fixture Davenport reaches 50-year plateau“, MLB.com 
  2. Bill James. “The New Bill James Historical Abstract
  3. Felipe Alou shares memories of teammate Jim Davenport“, KNBR
  4. Chris Haft (Feb 12, 2014). “Giants fixture Davenport reaches 50-year plateau“, MLB.com 
  5. Ed Attanasio. “They Were There: Joey Amalfitano“, This Great Game
  6. John Shea (May 6, 2015). “How Joey Amalfitano helped on Willie Mays’ career day“, SF Gate
  7. Thomas Kaplan (Aug 28, 2010). “Coach Devotes Himself to Game’s Most Selfless Play, New York Times
  8. Mexican League Banned Players“, Baseball Almanac
  9. Wayne Stewart. “Stan the Man
  10. Mark Z Aaron. “Who’s on First
  11. Alexander Edelman. “Eddie Stanky SABR bio“, Society for American Baseball Research
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About Aidan Jackson-Evans

I write about baseball. Follow me on Twitter: @ajacksonevans
This entry was posted in Pinch Writers, Uniform Numbers Through the Ages and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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