Davis, too, was never the same after the collision, lasting, as Murphy had, just two more seasons in the big leagues, both with the Dodgers. The ensuing two years he played with Indianapolis in Triple A and with Monterrey of the Mexican League before a succession of injuries to both knees, his left elbow and right foot forced him to retire in the winter of 1992. Quitting baseball wasn't easy for Davis. He was only 33, an age at which some of his contemporaries were having their best seasons. "I'd played baseball all my life," he says. "So I asked myself, now what?"
The transition was much less difficult for Murphy. He had been an all-league Hanker and defensive back at Antelope Valley High School in the California desert town of Lancaster and had been offered a football scholarship at Arizona State. He chose baseball money instead, but he never lost interest in football, and ever the analyst and tactician, he had kept abreast of the game's trends and developments. And so, when he returned from Japan, secure enough financially, he accepted a job at Monte Vista High School, near his home in Danville, Calif., as the freshman football coach. A year later he was promoted to junior varsity coach. It was a far cry from the big leagues, but Murphy was just happy to be back with his first love in sports.
Davis had vague coaching aspirations of his own. "At Indianapolis I spent a lot of time talking to minor league managers and coaches," he says. "I watched what they did with young people, and I realized I'd be pretty good at the job myself. After all, I'd learned from some of the best—Billy [Martin], Tony [La Russa] and Tommy [Lasorda]. I knew I could take the parts I liked about them and discard the others." But when no professional team made an offer, Davis occupied himself with a variety of sporting-equipment enterprises, including Axis Sports, which he started on his own. In the meantime he kept in touch with his neighbor and good friend Murphy.
Then there came a stroke of luck fully as good for them as their 1987 collision had been bad. California High School had been, for much of its two decades, an athletic doormat among schools in the fast-growing suburban valleys east of the Oakland-Berkeley hills. Neighboring football teams at mighty De La Salle in Concord (winners of 38 consecutive games as of Dec. 1), Foothill in Pleasanton, North-gate in Walnut Creek, Miramonte in Orinda and Monte Vista in Danville were consistently ranked among the top 15 in the Bay Area. Poor California High had excellent facilities but no luck on the field. The 1992 team did not win a game.
But when Debbra Lindo, an energetic school administrator, became the assistant principal in charge of athletics at Cal High in the fall of 1992, she prescribed "a shot of adrenaline" for the ailing program. The students, she says, seemed 'lacking in self-esteem. They saw themselves as the stepchildren of the school district." She set out to hire new coaches in the major sports as a means of reviving school spirit. Among the applicants, she was surprised to learn, were Davis for baseball and Murphy for football.
There were obvious drawbacks. Neither had much, if any, experience with high school athletes. Neither had a college degree. They were—like Lindo herself—African-Americans, and barely 3% of Cal High's 1,586 students were black. And how would they—as onetime high-profile professional athletes—cope with players at this level of competition?
But after interviewing the former teammates, Lindo and her search committee, which included students, were convinced of their sincerity. "They both wanted to give something back to the community where they lived," Lindo concluded. "And they both had exactly what we were looking for in terms of leadership. We decided to take the gamble."
Lindo, 42, recently moved on to another Bay Area high school, but she looks back on her decision with considerable pride. Both Davis and Murphy set to their tasks with a zeal uncommon for Cal High athletics. Davis himself paid for new uniforms for the baseball team. He hired another former A's teammate, Dave Hamilton, as his pitching coach, and Hamilton's son Jon became the team's ace pitcher. Murphy, meanwhile, held a celebrity golf tournament—attended by many of his former teammates—to raise money for his impoverished football program.
Davis's baseball team won the East Bay Athletic championship last spring and went on to the North Coast Section Finals at the Oakland Coliseum. Murphy took a winless football team to a 5-5 record in his first season.
As compensation for their labor, Murphy is paid an annual salary of $2,212; Davis, $1,793. Neither is particularly diligent about picking up his paycheck. But money is not what they are currently about.