As good as Alvin Davis was for the Mariners in the mid-1980s, there was another left-handed hitting first baseman who was as good or better as a hitter but didn’t get the same recognition. That player is Ken Phelps. Phelps and Davis were teammates from 1984 until the middle of the 1988 season, when he was traded to the Yankees for Jay Buhner. Look at the comparison between the two on offense using wRC+, which is weighted Runs Created, adjusted for league and ballpark. Based on this measure of offense, Ken Phelps was a better hitter than Alvin Davis:
That shouldn’t take away from how good Alvin Davis was or that he’s always been known as a great person. This award recognizes the person he is and the only thing that surprises me is that it took this long for Alvin Davis to be recognized.
We had a great time. The Home Run Derby included current Mariner Bret Boone and former Mariner Alex Rodriguez, who was booed unmercifully. This was the first year after A-Rod had left the Mariners and signed a historic 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers and he was the most hated man in Seattle. The fans were ecstatic when A-Rod failed to make it out of the first round. He only hit two homers, tied for the second-worst total among the eight contestants.
The four players who advanced to the second round were Luis Gonzalez, Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, and Barry Bonds. Remember, this was in the era of silly baseball, when offensive records were falling every year. At the All-Star break in 2001, Barry Bonds already had 39 home runs and would finish with a single-season record 73 dingers by the end of the season. Luis Gonzalez was second in baseball with 35 homers in the first half that year. Sammy Sosa had averaged nearly 60 homers per year over the three previous seasons. He had 29 at the break in 2001 and would go on to finish with 64 big flies. Jason Giambi was the lightweight. He only had 19 home runs. Of course, in the first round of the Home Run Derby in 2001, Giambi stole the show with 14 bombs. The second round winners were Gonzalez and Sosa, so those two squared off in the finals. Sosa was the overwhelming favorite. He had the history of 60 homers in a season. The most home runs Luis Gonzalez hit in a season before 2001 was 31 and the most he would hit after the 2001 season was 28. But in 2001, he had one of the great fluke home run years of all time when he hit 57. This was his year. Gonzalez had six home runs in the final round, easily beating the two long balls of Sosa and was crowned the Home Run Derby champion.
There was a good-sized crowd at the derby, so exiting the stadium when it was over was not easy. I use a wheelchair and had come up from the ground level on an elevator. At the end of the derby, there were a ton of people standing around waiting to go down on the elevator, so my sister and I just waited. Now, you never know what health ailments someone might have that would necessitate they use an elevator but it was noticeable that most of the people waiting to use the elevator were not wheelchair users and were not noticeably impaired. As we waited there, I looked over and saw Alvin Davis, waiting for the elevator next to us. I nudged my sister and whispered, “Hey, that’s Alvin Davis.” This was Mr. Mariner, the first Mariner inducted into the team Hall of Fame, the 1984 Rookie of the Year winner. She looks over, then walked towards him. I thought she was going to say that she’s a big fan, that he was a great player, that she remembered going to games and seeing him play when she was a kid, something like that. Instead, she looks at him skeptically and says, “You don’t look like you need to use the elevator.” He smiled, but a look of embarrassment came over his face. Quietly, he said, “You’re right” and shyly walked away and took the stairs.