While we rarely cite birthdays or dates of death in this series, with a very quiet October 17 in White Sox history, we’ll spotlight an all-time White Sox great today.
George Davis ranks ninth among position players in White Sox history with 33.1 WAR, and 17th among all White Sox. The two shortstops in team history who rank in front of him played considerably more games than Davis’ 856 on the South Side: Luke Appling (2,422 games) and Luis Aparicio (1,511). Davis’ 7.2 WAR in both the 1904 and 1905 seasons are tied for 10th-best in White Sox player history.
As was the case with many Dead Ball Era players, Davis was largely forgotten until more modern research properly valued his contributions. In this case, historian Bill James trumpeted the cause, which eventually saw the shortstop inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1998 — 58 years after Davis’ death.
Davis was, by statistics and defensive positioning, a five-tool player, hitting for great average and some power, with stolen base-speed. He moved from a corner outfield position to the far more challenging shortstop after his career began, spotlighting how much better defensively Davis was than his peers.
Davis already had built a Hall of Fame case in the first phase of his career with the New York Giants, for whom he played from 1893-1901 and amassed 44.6 WAR. He jumped to the White Sox as the American League began to raid National League talent in the early 1900s, and a bitter fight ensued between the two teams; after a 5.8 WAR debut with the White Sox in 1902, he was forced to essentially sit out the 1903 before returning to the South Side for his peak 1904-05 seasons with the White Sox. His 6.4 WAR led all players on the 1906 White Sox, who won the franchise’s first World Series in a massive upset over the Cubs.
Davis holds prominent spots on several all-time leaderboards:
- 84.5 WAR (53rd all-time)
- 24.0 defensive WAR (23rd)
- 2,372 games (96th)
- 9,045 at-bats (73rd)
- 1,545 runs (58th)
- 2,665 hits (73rd)
- 166 triples (33rd)
- 1,440 RBIs (66th)
- 619 stolen bases (17th)
- 3,614 times on base (87th)
Jay Jaffe’s JAWS measurement of peak player value ranks Davis as the fifth-best shortstop of all time. Among his similarity scores at Baseball-Reference, eight of the 10 most similar players to Davis in his career are in the Hall of Fame, including most similar Frankie Frisch (87.7%), Roberto Alomar (fourth-similar, 81.9%), Appling (fifth, 81%) and Nellie Fox (ninth, 78.8%).
Near the end of his life Davis succumbed to dementia, and he died in a mental institution in Philadelphia at age 70 on this day, 82 years ago.