More pain, but Davis perseveres Outfielder renews quest to play after brother's death

Sidelight

September 09, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- Eric Davis returned to the Orioles' clubhouse yesterday, bringing with him the same desire to play but an even more stinging sense of loss.

A season of pain continues to shadow Davis. Less than three months after undergoing surgery to remove a 3 1/2 -inch cancerous mass from his colon, Davis rejoined the Orioles having buried his only brother. Jimmy Davis, 36, suffered an apparent heart attack nine days ago. The autopsy results are not in yet. Davis had traveled to Miami with the team for a three-game series against the Florida Marlins when he was notified.

Once more Davis is presented an opportunity to question himself, his faith and his fate. Once more, he chooses another road.

"I never questioned that before. Why ask why?" Davis said. "Some things you're not going to find the answer to. It takes too much energy for me to sit back and ask, 'Why?' It doesn't take any energy to say, 'Why not?' "

Davis, 35, said he plans "absolutely" to play again this season. He has rehabilitated with single-minded purpose and hopes to serve as an inspiration to those similarly afflicted. Upon returning yesterday, he reiterated his desire to first appear after the Orioles return to Camden Yards on Thursday. The trauma of the past week hasn't changed that.

"That hasn't changed nothing. Nothing at all," he said.

Despite the weight of an oppressive summer, Davis does not perceive himself as a special case. "Everybody at some point is going to have tragedy in their life. It's just a matter of when. You always think of it being somebody else. But it's going to happen to everybody. You have to understand that," Davis said. "You hope it happens when you're old and gray. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way."

Davis draws strength from his mother, Shirley. It was she who attended to her youngest son when he went through a two-week ordeal to determine what was causing him excruciating stomach pain. It was she who held together the family after receiving a phone call notifying her of her other son's death.

"She's a very, very strong woman," Davis said. "To have one son undergo surgery and be diagnosed with cancer and the other one pass away, she has to be a strong lady."

Davis and his brother, also an outstanding athlete, spoke daily. But just as nothing could have prepared him for news of his loss, Davis is adamant about keeping on.

After two weeks off from treatment, Davis resumes chemotherapy at Johns Hopkins Hospital tomorrow, an Orioles off day. He then will begin testing himself anew, trying to rediscover the flashing bat, the explosive burst of speed and the inherent defensive instincts that made him an integral part of the club's lightning start.

"I'm not 100 percent physically," Davis said. "[But] I don't think I need to be 100 percent to be ready to play. I don't think anybody can say they're 100 percent right now because I don't think anybody who plays 162 games can be 100 percent physically."

Davis maintains he is "stronger than I was months ago but not as strong as I was when the season started. I'm somewhere in between."

Manager Davey Johnson said Davis will be activated as soon as space can be cleared on the 40-man major-league roster. Since Davis currently resides on the 60-day disabled list, he does not count against the limit.

Once he returns, Johnson foresees him serving as a pinch runner and defensive replacement before hopefully again working his way into an everyday role.

When that day arrives, Davis' return will be as much a tribute to his brother as it is an accomplishment.

"I'll miss him, but I don't use that as an excuse to fall off the face of the earth and go into a shell," he said. "He wouldn't want that."

Pub Date: 9/09/97

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