I've been taking the heat for a few days for not including catchers in this series, so with one week to go until pitchers and catchers report to Mesa, let's celebrate the career of Jody Davis, the catcher on the Cubs' 1984 N.L. East division title team.
Davis was originally drafted by the Mets in the third round in 1976. A couple years later he was traded to the Cardinals for Ray Searage, a lefthanded reliever of modest talent. Davis missed quite a bit of the 1980 season with what I recall was some sort of serious illness -- though I can't seem to find any information online as to what it was.
The Cubs decided to take a chance on him in the 1980 Rule 5 draft. Not only was he probably the best Rule 5 pick in Cubs history, he was one of the best decisions made by the outgoing regime under the Wrigleys, who would sell the team the next year.
Davis hit well enough in 56 games in 1981 (.256/.333/.361, four home runs) to be given the full-time job the next year, and in 1983 he blossomed into a star, hitting .271/.315/.480 with 24 home runs. It was the most home runs a Cubs catcher had hit in a season since 1930, when Gabby Hartnett hit 37. Davis' emergence sparked Harry Caray to start literally singing in his honor on television; it went something like this:
Jo-dee, Jo-dee Davis Cubs catcher without a peer Jo-dee, Jo-dee Davis Cubs catcher of the year
Or something like that. Maybe you remember it better. I still remember people starting to chant "Jo-dee! Jo-dee!" when he'd come up to bat -- that's something that had never really happened before at Wrigley Field.
Anyway, Davis had four more good year and then suddenly declined in 1988 and was replaced by Damon Berryhill as the starter. The Cubs traded him literally four days before the end of the season to the Braves for two guys named Kevin (Blankenship and Coffman), neither of whom did much of anything for the Cubs. Davis tried to hang on with the Braves and Tigers but was done as a player in 1990, at age 34.
He tried his hand at managing a decade and a half later, managing four years in the Cubs system. His 2008 Daytona Cubs, whose roster included Darwin Barney, Welington Castillo, Andrew Cashner, Blake Parker, James Russell and Brian Schlitter, won the Florida State League title.
He'll always be fondly remembered by Cubs fans who lived through the re-emergence of the team in the early Tribune Co. era. In all of Cubs history, there have been only seven seasons in which a catcher has hit 20 or more home runs: three by Hartnett, two by Davis, and one each from Rick Wilkins and Geovany Soto.
Gabby Hartnett (1932), Charlie Grimm (player and manager, 1933-34, 1936), Freddie Lindstrom (1935), Augie Galan (1937-41), Johnny Schmitz (1941), Dom Dallessandro (1942), Heinz Becker (1945-46), Bobby Sturgeon (1946-47), Dick Culler (1948), Emil Verban (1948-50), Frankie Baumholtz (1951-55), Don Hoak (1956), Bobby Adams (1957), Casey Wise (1957), Walt (Moose) Moryn (1958-1960), Sammy Taylor (1961-62), Merritt Ranew (1963-64), Ron Campbell (1964), Harvey Kuenn (1965-66), Roberto Pena (1965), John Herrnstein (1966), Pete Reiser (coach, 1966-69), Peanuts Lowery (coach, 1970-71), Rick Monday (1972-76), Bobby Murcer (1977-79), Bruce Kimm (1979), Cliff Johnson (1980), Jody Davis (1981-88), Joe Girardi (1989-92), Mike Maksudian (1994), Joe Kmak (1995), Tyler Houston (1996-99), Shane Andrews (1999), Eric Young (2000-01), Ramon Martinez (2003), Kenny Lofton (2003), Todd Walker(2004-06), Ryan Theriot (2006), Mark DeRosa (2007-08), Aaron Miles (2009), Rudy Jaramillo (coach, 2010-12), Brett Jackson (2012), J.C. Boscan (2013), Arismendy Alcantara (2014)
Just so you know, I did consider DeRosa for this entry in the series, knowing how popular he is with many here. But the catcher thing trumped that.