September 13, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Steve Davis, the first pitcher in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization to register 20 wins in a single season, passed away on September 28, 2021 at the age of 61 after a courageous battle with cancer.
His obituary was published recently by Thompson’s Harveson & Cole Funeral Home and Crematory in Fort Worth, Tex.
Davis pitched in the Blue Jays’ organization from 1982 to 1988, but he’s best known as the first pitcher in the organization’s history to earn 20 wins in a single season. He accomplished the feat in 1985 when he won 17 games at double-A Knoxville, three at triple-A Syracuse and two with the big league Blue Jays for a total of 22.
Born in San Antonio, Tex., on August 4, 1960, Davis was a standout athlete at Winston Churchill High School in his home city. After he graduated, he headed to Texas A&M University where he was a force on the mound, posting a combined 11-5 record during his college career.
His collegiate performance convinced the Blue Jays to select him in the 21st round of the 1982 MLB draft. The 6-foot-1 lefty was assigned to their Rookie-ball affiliate in Medicine Hat where he registered a 5-1 record and a 3.44 ERA in 13 appearances (three starts) and struck out 46 in 36 2/3 innings to help the club to their only Pioneer League championship.
He started the ensuing campaign with class-A Florence of the South Atlantic League, where he went 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA in 23 starts before being promoted to double-A Knoxville to make four starts.
In 1984, he pitched the entire season in Knoxville and posted a 9-6 record and a 3.44 ERA in 27 appearances (25 starts), spanning 154 2/3 innings.
But it was 1985 that would be his breakout campaign. Davis dominated in double-A, going 17-6 with a 2.45 ERA in 27 appearances. That included a 6-0 July in which he recorded a 1.08 ERA to earn himself Topps Minor League Pitcher of the Month honours. For his efforts, he was also named a Southern League All-Star and the team’s R. Howard Webster Award winner as team MVP.
His double-A dominance earned him a promotion to triple-A Syracuse, where he continued to pitch well, going 3-2 with a 2.50 ERA in six starts before the big league Blue Jays called him up on August 24.
After tossing two scoreless innings in relief against the Chicago White Sox in his major league debut on August 25, Davis was summoned from the bullpen again two days later when starter Tom Filer suffered an elbow injury in the first inning of a game against the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome. Davis entered the game and proceeded to throw four scoreless innings, allowing only one hit, to pick up his first major league win in the Blue Jays’ 8-0 victory.
Toronto Blue Jays manager Bobby Cox was impressed.
“He’s a very confident looking individual out there,” Cox told the Associated Press (AP) after the game.
Veteran reliever Dennis Lamp also lauded Davis’s performance.
“He came in and shut them down for four innings,” Lamp told reporters. “It was a big lift for the team.”
For his part, Davis was just happy to help the team in a pennant race.
“I just want to contribute to the team as much as I can,” said Davis after the game. “I can’t come up here and sit on it (his 20 minor league wins). I want to be here next year.”
Davis would make five starts for the Blue Jays in September and finish with a 3.54 ERA in 10 appearances down the stretch to help them secure their first American League East title.
The then 25-year-old lefty started the 1986 season in the Blue Jays’ bullpen but was roughed up for seven runs in his first three outings and was demoted to triple-A for the remainder of the season.
After a subpar 1987 season split between double-A and triple-A, Davis rediscovered his form in 1988, registering a 3.29 ERA in 31 starts for Syracuse.
On December 26, 1988, he was signed as a free agent by Cleveland, where he returned to the big leagues to post a 8.06 ERA in 12 appearances in 1989.
He spent his final professional season with the triple-A Albuquerque Dukes in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization in 1990.
Following his pitching career, Davis worked in the home building industry for Steve Hawkins Custom Homes in Fort Worth, Tex., for 30 years. He also coached baseball in his home state.
When learning of Davis’s passing, some of his former teammates in the Blue Jays’ organization expressed their condolences on the Cooperstowners in Canada Facebook page.
Davis is survived by his wife, Pam, and their three children Alese, Rhett, and Rhys.
You can read his full obituary and leave your condolences on a Tribute Wall for him here.