"I knew Glenn had many struggles, and my heart bled for him," says Davis's mother, who married an evangelical preacher seven years ago and is now Margaret Todd. "I wasn't the perfect mother, but then Glenn was a headstrong boy and I felt I had to apply some discipline. I can assure you I never whipped Glenn harder than my own daddy whipped me." Even Gene Davis believes his ex-wife was simply trying to be the father Glenn never had. "The thing is," he says, "if I had been there, I'd have beat him my own self."
When he was 17, Glenn left home and moved in with George and Norma Davis, to whom he is not related but whom he now refers to as his mother and father. Their son Storm, who pitches for the Baltimore Orioles, was one of Glenn's best friends at University Christian High School, and George Davis was the school's football coach and assistant baseball coach. Glenn and Storm played both sports for him. "It's hard for people to understand how close we are," says Storm. "Now that he's in the big leagues, when people say, 'I talked to your brother,' I don't even think about it."
Encouraged by his adoptive family, Davis pursued a career in baseball. "My heart's desire was for him to be in full-time Christian service," says Margaret Todd. "I believe Glenn was pressured by outside influences to make some of the decisions he made. I think they were interested in his potential for stardom." The Orioles drafted Davis in 1979 in the 32nd round and offered him $2,000 to sign; Davis thought the offer was a joke. It wasn't. He reported to the Orioles' farm team in Bluefield, only to discover that Baltimore wanted to turn him into a pitcher. "I had a good arm and all, but I told them I wanted to hit," Davis says. He played a season at the University of Georgia. That was followed by a stint in the Cape Cod summer league, where he was co-MVP and tied for the lead in home runs, so impressing the Orioles that they raised their offer by three or four thousand dollars. "I was embarrassed," Davis says. "I told them I'd take my chances somewhere else."
Davis was signed by the Astros in 1981 to a contract large enough to afford a new condo and sports car. He used both to impress the women he spent most of his free time chasing. "Any way I could use someone, I would," he says. Davis is convinced he would either be dead or in jail by now if he had not, in the nick of time, heard the voice of God. "I wasn't having any fun at what I was doing anymore," he says. "I was playing pro ball, but my life was in chaos. That was the first time I was really scared, and I knew then that I needed help. I believe that's when I would have finally pulled the trigger if nothing had happened."
After hitting .315 and a league-leading 19 home runs for the Daytona Beach Astros in 1982, Glenn returned home and discovered his family was dissolving around him again. Norma Davis told him that she and her husband knew all about his drinking and womanizing, and that they had had enough. "She came to me and said, 'We've been trying to be a mother and father to you, and all you've been doing is bringing grief back to us,' " Davis says. " 'If you need a place to stay and a bed to sleep in, you can stay here, but we're not going to be a mother and father to you anymore.' I started crying, and I told my mom I needed help and I needed it fast. I needed someone to save my life." At that point Glenn and Norma fell to their knees and began to pray for his redemption. "The moment I finished praying, that chip on my shoulder was gone," he says.
His life took another change for the better when he married Teresa Beesley in 1984. He met Teresa two years before in Columbus, Ga., where he was playing for the Astros' AA farm team. Teresa is the daughter of a Korean mother and an American GI. Though she now speaks nearly flawless English, which she taught herself from a dictionary, she didn't learn the language until she moved to Columbus with her mother and stepfather at the age of 15. Prior to that she had had a fairly typical Korean upbringing, attending a Buddhist temple regularly with her mother. "I didn't understand much of it," she says, "but they always had great food."
At their wedding, Davis had a smorgasbord of parents on hand. His mother showed up with her new husband, his father came with his new wife, and George and Norma Davis were there, too. "I think the most confused person in the wedding party was my mother," says Teresa. "She didn't know which parents were which." Actually, it wasn't that hard to pick them out because they were the couples not speaking to one another. "We had different factions sitting in different parts of the room, and then they all had to come up separately for group pictures," says Davis. "The sweat was pouring off of me so bad I had to look down so that people couldn't see my face. It was terrible."
As Teresa brought stability into his life, Davis's baseball career began to flourish, but a reconciliation with his mother still seemed a long way off. For two years after he left home Davis could not be around his natural mother without starting to shake and breaking into a sweat. Even five years later, after he had met Teresa, he could not describe his childhood to her without becoming so ill that sometimes he would actually throw up. A year and a half ago Davis went home to see his mother, "so she wouldn't go to her grave feeling I hated her," he says. "But let's face it, she and I don't have a great relationship."
His religious affirmation gave Davis a new beginning, but it has not brought him complete peace of mind. "I really don't have anything to trust or believe in now but Him," he says. "I think all the time, Lord, you put me here and gave me success. Are you going to take it away from me one day to see how I react? Sometimes it goes through my mind that my life is going to be a storybook tale: Glenn Davis is saved from the pits of hell, meets with success and becomes famous, and then he gets cancer just like Brian Piccolo.
"It seems like my life has been a crossword puzzle," he adds, "as if it was all mapped out from the start and all that remained to be done was to fill in the blanks one by one. A taste of the bad, then a taste of the good, that's what keeps me going." It is the curious lockstep of sin and redemption, two across and one down, the blanks being filled in one by one.