Punchuation point is perfect ending

JOHN EISENBERG

June 11, 1993|By JOHN EISENBERG

The infamous meeting between a bouncer's fist and Glenn Davis' jaw resulted in an outcome that was unmistakeably Nixonian. From the bleachers to the beaches, you could hear the warble call of Bird watchers everywhere: Well, we won't have him to kick around anymore.

Only the most fervent non-believer would deny that it had the markings of the work of a higher authority, a baseball god or one even higher on the totem pole.

Make sure you understand what happened. The Orioles took part in one of the roughest baseball brawls ever, a bloody punch-fest endangering dozens of expensive arms and legs, and the only one who got hurt was Mr. Blue Cross himself, Gentle Glenn, waiting for a cab outside a nightclub some 300 miles away.

Incredible.

The only thing missing was a booming thunderclap.

Neither Davis nor the Orioles needed any more signs that their cracked partnership was never meant to be. But this certainly was it. An unqualified stud as an Astro, poor Glenn can't even get sent to the minors right as an Oriole.

Club officials are leaving open the possibility that he might rehab in time to play later this season. Of course, they've said that so many times in the past three years that it's become a reflex, something that trickles out of their mouths involuntarily, like a hiccup. They'll probably still be saying it next year, when Davis is in Colorado Springs or Texas or wherever.

The right thing to do would be to cease and desist. If ever there was a deal on which the statute of limitations has run out, this is it. It's time to turn the page. Trade for Fred McGriff. Trade for Fred MacMurray. Do anything except dangle even the slightest possibility of "the old Glenn Davis" reappearing. Enough already.

For those keeping score at home, the poor man now has three items in need of rehab. His jaw. His swing. His confidence. And there's always the neck/rib cage/shoulder thing, an old favorite. That's four strikes. He's out.

Davis was paid obscene millions to bust, so there's no need to shed a tear. But his name has become a reason for locals to sneer, and no one deserves that. Particularly not Davis. The nightclub poke has more or less completed his transformation into a cartoonish character, an ill-fated Charlie Brown lacking judgment and heart as well as luck. But that's not a fair assessment.

There are some things about Davis that you should know. No one in the Orioles clubhouse is more genuine. No one anywhere has a bigger heart. Having survived a troubled youth, he wants to use his fame and fortune to help people. Make a difference.

He has started a home for troubled children in Georgia and doesn't just donate his name and money without showing up. He is hands-on. He helps pick the kids. He counsels them. He works at it.

Then there is the story about Michael Patterson, the son of local radio man Ted Patterson. Michael, a high schooler, suffered a brain hemorrhage in January 1992 and, Ted said yesterday, "was down to his last breath." But he survived and began a long, slow recovery.

Ted went to Florida for spring training and mentioned the harrowing incident to several players. Two weeks later, while Michael was eating dinner one night at the hospital, Davis called.

The nurse told him it was not a good time and Davis hung up. "I couldn't believe she said that," Ted said. But Davis called back two hours later and spoke to Michael for 20 minutes.

"Completely unsolicited," Ted said. "Just a super thing to do."

When Michael attended a game that May, Davis sat in the dugout with him for 30 minutes and gave him a bat. When Michael threw out the first ball at a game this year, Davis caught it.

"This," he told Michael, "is the best thing that's happened to me in a while."

The complete portrait of Davis is incomplete without such a story, which is typical. He was a bust here as a player, but also a good, giving man.

That's what makes the nightclub poke such an ironic ending. Davis is not a bar guy. Not a smart aleck. He serves non-alcoholic beer at his Christmas party. Of all the Orioles, he is absolutely the least likely to get hit by a bouncer.

Whatever happened outside the nightclub, you can be sure Davis was not the one who started the trouble. We'll probably never know what happened, just like we'll never know what went wrong here, whether it was a mental or physical or metaphysical problem. His time here was vague above all else, painted with two coats of gray. The only certainty is that it was weird, from first swing to last.

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