Best Cincinnati Reds Ever: Eric Davis v. Lee May

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First Round Matchup No. 3 Eric Davis v. No. 14 Lee May


An eighth round pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 1980, Eric Davis was leading their offense six years later. In his first full season Davis hit 27 home runs, drove in 71 RBIs all while hitting a respectable .271. Oh, and he stole 80 bases. He wasn’t a legitimate MVP candidate, but he received some votes nonetheless.

Eric The Red kept it rolling the following year when he hit 37 home runs, drove in 100 RBIs and stole 50 bases on 56 attempts all while hitting an improved .293. He was already littering his trophy case as a 25 year old earning a bid to the All-Star game, winning both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award and again earning MVP votes. He added two more Gold Gloves, another Silver Slugger Award and a second a final All-Star appearance to cap an impressive Reds career by age 29.

Davis did return to Cincinnati five years later for a one-year stint and quietly added another 20-20 season (26 HR, 23 SB) with 83 RBIs while hitting .287. For his Reds career Davis hit 203 home runs, stole 270 bases in 316 attempts and hit .271.

He won the Home Run Derby as a member of the Reds in 1989 and then won the Roberto Clemente Award in 1997 — the season following his last as a Red — awarded to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”

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Davis added pristine defense in the grass for Cincinnati earning comparisons to Willie Mays and had arguably the best raw speed of any legitimate 30-home-run threat to play the game to that point. Not familiar with his play in the outfield? Read John Eraradi’s 2014 story in the Cincinnati Enquirer about one of the postseason’s greatest defensive plays ever.

He did struggle in the postseason carrying a career .192 average with two walks to 21 strikeouts in 73 at-bats, but Davis did hit .286 with a home run, five RBIs and no strikeouts in the 1990 World Series of which the Reds won in a four-game sweep over the Athletics. Davis also struggled with injuries in his career never playing more than 135 games in a season — making his production that much more impressive — but also hindered him establishing himself as one of the best to ever take the field.

Davis will not be inducted into the Hall of Fame earning just three votes in his first and only year on the ballot in 2007, but he was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 2005. His .510 career slugging percentage with the Reds is one of just seven players to have a SLG above .500.


Signed as an amateur free agent by the Cincinnati Reds in 1961, Lee May made his major league debut four years later. Two years after that and May had a starting job split between first base and the outfield in a year when Sporting News named him the NL Rookie of the Year. After a combined 34 home runs in his first two full seasons with the Reds, May asserted himself as one of if not the best power hitter on the stacked Reds teams of the early 1970s.

The Big Bopper blasted 38 home runs with 110 RBIs in 1969 making his first All-Star appearance and receiving MVP votes. He had 34-94 and 39-98 in the next two seasons. Yes, in that three-year span, May hit 111 home runs with 302 RBIs — or an average of 37 home runs and not quite 101 RBIs.

In just 761 career games with the Reds, May hit .274 with 147 home runs and 449 RBIs and was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 2006. Lee May ranks 18th all time in home runs as a Red, but has the fewer games played (761) than every player ahead of him. Every other Red above him had at least 1,000 games played except Ken Griffey Jr. (945), Eric Davis (985) and Wally Post (902).

The Reds lost the 1970 World Series due to severe slumps by Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and especially Tony Perez, but May still hit a robust .389 with two home runs and eight RBIs in the five-game series.

May was eventually traded to the Astros for Joe Morgan, Cesar Geronimo and others — probably a trade the Reds would consider again.

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