Last night, Ike Davis made his major league debut with the New York Mets. He is the son of former major league pitcher Ron Davis, who had a 10-year major league career that included parts of 4 seasons with the Yankees. Called up to the Yankees in 1978, Davis would emerge as one of the Yankees most effective relievers from 1979 to 1981 and team with Rich Gossage to form one of the more dominant bullpen tandems in Yankee history (see below for a comparison).
Ron Davis was best known for a powerful fastball that once allowed him to strike out 8 consecutive batters (May 4, 1981 versus the Angels), a Yankee record as well as the top mark for relief pitchers. However, he also gained notoriety during the 1981 strike for pitching daily specials as a waiter at Oren and Aretsky, a restaurant and sports bar on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Davis, along with many other sports figures and celebrities from the world of entertainment, used to frequent the restaurant when he was drawing a major league paycheck. Over that time, he befriended owner and Yankee fan Ken Aretsky. So, when the strike hit, Aretsky offered Davis the job and he accepted.
Naturally, Davis’ career change garnered a lot of media attention. Pictures of a gangly Davis were splashed across newspapers nationwide and picked up by baseball’s flagship This Week in Baseball. The sight of a baseball player having to wait tables was probably very good PR for the MLBPA, but according to most accounts, it seemed as if Davis actually enjoyed his brief second career.
New Yorkers may be used to it, but back in Texas, we don’t get to see too many movie stars up close. Another reason why I like working here is that I can see a lot of famous people. Farrah Fawcett has been in here, Miss USA, as well as television soap opera stars and athletes from other sports. I am a big soap opera fan; I watch them every chance I get. – Ron Davis, quoted by AP
Fortunately, or unfortunately for Davis, the baseball strike would come to an end on July 31. The season resumed played on August 9 with the All Star Game, to which Davis was selected as an injury replacement for the Goose. Perhaps eager to show off his new found culinary skills, Davis also hosted a “welcome back” barbeque for the entire Yankee team. Eventually, however, he settled back into his more customary profession, and tossed a shutout inning against the Texas Rangers when regular season play resumed on August 10.
The Yankees would go on to lose the 1981 World Series to the Dodgers, thanks in no small part to Davis’ 23.14 ERA in only 2 1/3 innings. Before the following season, Davis would be traded with Greg Gagne to the Minnesota Twins for Roy Smalley. Although he did pitch well in 1983 and 1985, Davis would really never regain the same level of consistency and, after brief stints with the Cubs, Dodgers and Giants, eventually end his career pitching in Japan.
With the promotion of his son, Ike, the elder Davis probably won’t have to fall back on his second career, but should he get the itch, I am sure there are a lot of restaurants in Manhattan who can use an experienced waiter.
Dynamic Duos – Best Relief Tandems in Yankees’ History