Víctor Davalillo wasn’t a Dodger for very long, but he left a memorable impression.
The journeyman utility player was an instrumental figure in sending the Dodgers to the 1977 World Series against the New York Yankees. His drag bunt for a single with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the NLCS keyed the Dodgers’ rally from a 5-3 deficit against the Philadelphia Phillies. They scored three runs in the inning to win the game, 6-5, and ultimately the series.
Davalillo died Wednesday, as first reported by El Extrabase.
Although widely reported to have been 84 years old at the time of his death, Davalillo’s age is of some dispute. As described in the book The 50 Greatest Dodgers Games of All Time, the Venezuelan claimed to be born in 1936 when interviewed for a biography in his native tongue:
The Dodgers listed Davalillo’s birth year as 1939. The Baseball Register claimed it was 1936. “I don’t care what anyone says,” Davalillo told The Sporting News in September 1977. “I was born in Cabinas, Venezuela July 31, 1939.” Actually, that’s not true. Years later, Davalillo corrected the record for a biographer in his native country: He was born in Churuguara, Venezuela on July 31, 1936. That made him 41 years old in October 1977 and the oldest player in the league.From The 50 Greatest Dodgers Games of All Time
Davalillo hit .279 in a 16-season major league career with the Cleveland Indians, California Angels, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Dodgers — who signed him out of the Mexican League in the middle of the 1977 season.
Davalillo spent the final four seasons of his major league career (1977-80) in a Dodger uniform, splitting time between the big leagues, Venezuela, and Triple-A Albuquerque during that time. He did his best work as a pinch hitter, the high point coming in Game 3 of the 1977 NLCS.
The Dodgers looked past questions about his age to sign him, as described by Dodger Insider:
At age 38, Davalillo was “discovered” in 1977 by Dodger scout Charlie Metro, who was watching right-hander Bobby Castillo pitch at Monterrey. The 5-foot-8, 155-pound Davalillo, playing in Mexico since 1975, was leading the league with a .384 batting average at Aguascalientes.
The summary of Metro’s report to Los Angeles general manager Al Campanis was: “I don’t care how old he is, he still can hit and he still can run.”Dodger Insider
After Davalillo played his final major league game in October 1980, his playing career continued for several more years in Mexico before he ultimately retired to Venezuela.
Dodgers Nation sends its condolences to Davalillo’s friends and family.
Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports