Texas manager Johnny Oates says, "If there is one word to describe Rusty, it is consistent. He can run, throw, hit with power and hit .300 against righties and lefties. And he's one of the special ones who comes up big when you really need it."
Greer has, in fact, excelled in critical situations, winning seven games in 1995 and '96 with hits in the Rangers' final at bat, and another two games this season. In '94 he made a diving catch in the ninth inning to save Kenny Rogers's perfect game. All these heroics led fans to vote Greer their most popular player in a newspaper poll last season. It's a tribute to Greer's appeal in Arlington that he won that vote in a landslide over Juan Gonzalez, the '96 American League Most Valuable Player.
Eric Davis returned to Camden Yards last Thursday evening dressed in civvies and flanked by a pair of doctors. Two weeks after cancer surgery, he informed Orioles fans that he was embarking on yet another comeback. "I'm optimistic about playing again in 1997," he said. "I've been knocked down plenty in my career, but I always stand up again. Believe me, I know how to make a comeback."
Before his latest ailment, the 35-year-old Davis had shown flashes of brilliance in 1996 and the early weeks of '97, compelling baseball fans once again to ponder what might have been. After all, in 1986 he cracked 27 homers and stole 80 bases, becoming only the second 20-80 player in history (the other was the Yankees' Rickey Henderson in 1985 and '86). The following year Davis had 37 home runs and 50 steals, becoming the first 30-50 man (Barry Bonds of the Pirates became the second, in 1990). In those days Davis was constantly compared with Willie Mays. "He does things the rest of us can only dream about," said Dave Parker, Davis's teammate with the Reds from 1984 to '87. "There's a player like Eric Davis once every 50 years. It's a thrill to watch him. They should make me pay. I hope he can stay healthy, so he can reach his potential."
Unfortunately, Davis never played more than 135 games in a season because of myriad leg and shoulder injuries and a herniated disk in his neck. Eleven times in his 13-year career he has been on the disabled list; he has missed more than 450 games. In Game 4 of the 1990 World Series, between the Reds and the A's, Davis lacerated a kidney trying to make a diving catch. Hours later he lay in an Oakland hospital emergency room unaware that his team had won the Series.
Davis retired from baseball following an injury-plagued 1994 season in Detroit, only to return to the Reds in '96. Despite the' 18-month layoff, he hit .287 with 26 homers and 83 RBIs to win the National League Comeback Player of the Year award. Last winter he signed with Baltimore as a free agent, and he was hitting .302 with seven homers and 21 RBIs in 34 games when, on May 25, pain he had been suffering in his abdomen became so intense that he couldn't play anymore. Three weeks later doctors removed a cancerous mass the size of a baseball from his colon.
Davis left the lineup, and soon the Orioles' offense began to sputter. After being shut out last Thursday night for the fourth time in eight games, Baltimore acquired slugger Geronimo Berroa from Oakland to try to compensate for the loss of Davis's production.
Davis flew to Los Angeles last weekend to meet with his family and get another medical opinion on whether he should undergo chemotherapy. The decision could determine whether he rejoins Baltimore this season. While Davis understands the gravity of his disease and the importance of the chemotherapy, which would probably put him out of action for months, he also realizes that playing for the 1997 Orioles could be his last chance to return to the World Series. "That's the only piece that's missing for me, and it's an unquenchable thirst," Davis said in the Baltimore clubhouse last Thursday. "I missed out on all the joy in '90. I want the champagne. I want the ticker-tape parade. I want my chance to finally celebrate."