When: June 18, 1962
Where: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
Game Time: 2:18
Coming into that campaign, he was a .277 career hitter who never drove in more than 58 runs in a season. All he did in 1962 was lead the major leagues in hits (230), RBIs (153 – still the Dodger franchise record) and batting average (.346). He also had a career-best 27 home runs and struck out only 65 times in 711 plate appearances.
One season transformed Tommy Davis from unknown part-time player to one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. And though he would repeat as National League batting champion in 1963 and collect over 2,000 hits in an 18-year major league career, he would never again approach his hitting productivity of 1962.
Especially, hitting in the clutch.
The game between St. Louis and Los Angeles on June 18, 1962 was a showcase for emerging stars … starting with the starting pitchers. On the mound for the Dodgers was Sandy Koufax, who was beginning to demonstrate the overpowering dominance that was to carry him through the 1962 season. Koufax entered the game at 9-2 with a 2.86 ERA and a league-leading 137 strikeouts in only 116.1 innings. The Cardinals’ starter was Bob Gibson, 8-4 coming into the game with a 3.17 ERA, though opponents’ batting average against Gibson was only .198 up to this game. After the game, that average would not climb much higher.
During his career, Davis struggled against Gibson (an affliction shared by many National League batters), hitting only .167. And in this game Davis would only go one for four, striking out twice. But as so often happened during his magical 1962 season, Davis made that one hit count.
Through the first eight innings, Koufax and Gibson were locked in a scoreless duel. Koufax had allowed only four hits, Gibson only two. In the top of the ninth, Koufax got two outs before Ken Boyer singled to left. Now a pair of future Hall of Famers faced each other as Stan Musial stepped into the batter’s box. But Musial had no opportunity to advance Boyer, who was caught trying to steal second, ending the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, Gibson got Ron Fairly out on a soft fly to second baseman Julian Javier. Davis was the next batter, and the game’s last, as he sent a line drive into the left field seats for a 1-0 Dodgers victory.
It was the first shutout for Koufax in 1962. He would pitch only one more in that injury-shortened season that would result in the first of his five consecutive ERA crowns (with 2.54).
For Gibson – who eventually led the league in shutouts with five in 1962 – it was another tough loss in what would be a 15-13 season with a 2.85 ERA.
And for Tommy Davis, his walk-off blast marked the third time that one of his home runs gave Koufax a 1-0 victory.