Siluria native and Giant legend Jim Davenport dies at 82

Published 12:47 pm Friday, February 26, 2016

Jim Davenport (right), shown here with his son, Gary, at a San Jose Giants baseball game in 2005, died on Feb. 18 in California. (File)

Jim Davenport (right), shown here with his son, Gary, at a San Jose Giants baseball game in 2005, died on Feb. 18 in California, he was 82. (File)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

Siluria native and former San Francisco Giant Jim “Peanut” Davenport died on Thursday evening, Feb. 18, in Redwood, Calif., due to heart failure, the San Francisco Giants announced on Feb. 19. Davenport was 82.

Davenport attended Thompson High School where he played his high school ball, and the current Warriors’ baseball stadium bears his name, as does a pizzeria opened in Mountain Brook by Davenport’s childhood friend Rex Hollis in 1964. Davenport relayed his gratitude to Thompson for naming the stadium in his honor in a 2010 interview with the Shelby County Reporter.

“It’s a great honor,” Davenport said at the time. “I had so many great years there. I’ll always thank them for what they’ve done for me.”

Upon his graduation from Thompson, Davenport enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi in 1952, where he was a two-sport star in baseball and football. Davenport played quarterback and defensive back as well as punted on occasion for the football team at Southern while playing shortstop and second base for the baseball team. In his final season in college, Davenport batted an astounding .439 before signing a free agent contract with the Giants after the season. He debuted in the Major Leagues at the age of 24 on April 15, 1958.

In that first season with the Giants, and in the Giants’ first year in San Francisco, Davenport played in 134 games, recorded 111 hits including 12 home runs, batted in 41 runs and finished with a batting average of .256. He took the Giants’ first-ever at bat as an organization on the west coast, as he batted lead-off in the Giants’ first game in San Francisco.

Over the course of his 13-year playing career for the Giants, Davenport played in 1,501 games, and was a career .258 hitter, and was an All-Star selection in 1962 as well as winning a Gold Glove in the ’62 season as well. Davenport got as close as he ever came to winning a World Series as a player that season, as the Giants lost to the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series via a 1-0 final.

His 1,130 games played at third base is the most all-time for any Giant. He led the National League in fielding percentage in each season from 1959-61, and his 97 consecutive games at third base without an error from 1966-68 was a record that stood until the 1990s.

Davenport, however, spent the lion’s share of his time around Major League Baseball in his post-playing days. He served as the manager of the Phoenix Giants from 1971-73, a minor league feeder team for San Francisco, before leaving the Giants’ organization briefly for two years to coach in the San Diego Padres organization. He returned as a third-base coach for the Giants in 1976, where he stayed until he briefly managed the Giants in the 1985 season, where he went 56-88 before being replaced by Roger Craig.

The Philadelphia Phillies, the Cleveland Indians and the Detroit Tigers all were stops along Davenport’s coaching route before he returned to San Francisco yet again in 1996, where he held various positions over the next decade-plus.

“I owe the Giants everything,” Davenport said in the 2010 interview. “They’ve been great to me and my family.”

Davenport was also inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.