RIP: Hall of Famer Jim “Peanuts” Davenport`
We lost another Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer this week and I wish my father were here to write this obit.
Jim Davenport was a close friend of my late father, Ace Cleveland. Davenport, nicknamed Peanuts, was a baseball and football star at Southern Miss in the early 1950s and later a Gold Glove third baseman for the San Francisco Giants. He died Thursday night in Redwood, Calif. He was 82. He was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1983.
Said no lesser an authority than Willie Mays of Davenport, “He played third base the best of anybody best in the league.”
Davenport quarterbacked then-Mississippi Southern College to back-to-back upset victories over Alabama in 1953 and 1954. As a baseball player, he hit .439 for his college career.
A native of Siluria, Ala., Davenport had dreamed of playing quarterback for the Crimson Tide, but Alabama had a rule against married players at the time and Davenport had married in high school. So, instead of playing for the Tide, he helped beat Bama twice.
He played for the original San Francisco Giants after they moved from the Polo Grounds in 1958. He was a mainstay for 13 seasons, an acknowledged leader in the clubhouse of Giants teams that included Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda among others.
Each summer when the Giants traveled to Houston to play the Colt 45s-then-Astros, my dad would take us to Houston to watch a series of games. Davenport would take my brother, Bobby, and me into the clubhouse and dugout before the games. We met Mays, McCovey and the rest. It was obvious the respect they all had for Davenport. Because of the man my dad called “Nuts,” the biggest stars in the National League treated us like princes.
For most of his 13-year career Davenport batted second in the Giants lineup, just ahead of Mays and McCovey. He was a career .258 hitter, known for his ability to handle the bat and move runners up by bunting or hitting behind the runner. He was a two-time All-Star.
Davenport was a baseball lifer. He managed and coached in the Giants system, most recently as a roving minor league instructor.
Davenport is survived by his wife, Betty, daughter, Cathy, and sons Randy, Ken, Don and Gary.