(This is Day 28 of our response to Tony L.’s 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge. See all our posts in this series here.)

The most exciting baseball player I’ve ever seen in person, and probably the most exciting I’ve ever seen at all, is the great Eric Davis.

Although Davis spent time in the Cincinnati Reds outfield during both the 1984 and 1985 seasons, it wasn’t until the 1986 campaign that he really started putting it together.

That year, as the Reds tried to keep pace with the Houston Astros in the old National League West, Davis hit 27 home runs and stole 80 bases while making center field look like a postage stamp thanks to his amazing wheels.

The man could do anything on a baseball diamond it seemed, and he did most everything in 1987: .293, 37 HR, 100 RBI, 120 runs. Despite playing in just 129, he contributed 7.9 WAR to another second-place effort for the Reds. He finished ninth in the MVP vote that season, making his performance one of the most underrated in a generation.

Nevertheless, he had fully arrived at age 25.

A Fragile Peak

Unfortunately, a low number of games played would become a hallmark of Davis’ career. His slender body (6’2″, 165 pounds) seemed just a bit too slender to withstand a full season of Major League rigors.

In a 17-year run in the Bigs, Davis never played more than 135 games in any season and averaged just 96.

All those missed games — and an entire missed season in 1995, left Davis far short of the Hall of Fame numbers so many predicted for him.

But when he was on the field, there was no one like him. If number 44 was on the diamond, you paid attention to every pitch because you just never knew what could happen.

And, even though Davis played for six different franchises during his career, he’ll always be a Red to me. Not only did he break in on the Riverfront, he was also a key member of the 1990 team that won the World Series, the franchise’s last title to date.

 
2011 Topps Heritage Relics Eric Davis

 

He’s No Relic

That’s why, when it was time to tackle Day 27 of the 30-Day Baseball Card challenge, identifying a favorite relic card, Eric Davis was an easy choice.

Of course, relic cards are a relatively modern invention, and their advent fell long after I’d pretty much stopped chasing each year’s new issues. Nevertheless, finding Davis relic cards online was a relatively straightforward Google proposition.

Among the bat cards and glitzy autograph-jersey combos, one card stood out for me: 2011 Topps Heritage ’62 Mint (as reported on the Lifetime Topps blog).

This 20-card issue showcases events from 1962 against a woodgrain border reminiscent of the 1962 Topps set. The “relic” is a real US coin minted in 1962.

In the case of the Davis card, the event was his birth on May 29, 1962. The coin is a 1962 penny.

The accompanying photo shows a primetime Davis in a batting pose, bathed in the Red of his Cincinnati hat and warm-up jacket. It’s just beautiful!

The only downside to the card is that it immediately reminds you of Davis’ age — 55 at the time of this writing.

No matter, though.

Eric Davis may be aging, but he’s no relic. Indeed, he’s a timeless reminder of a simpler time in baseball and the Golden Age of the hobby boom.