On Sunday mornings Glenn Davis would put on his finest clothes and comb his hair with water until it lay flat on his head, as if he were trying to smooth off all his rough edges. He was much admired by the elders of Jacksonville's Calvary Baptist Church for never missing a service—mornings and evenings on Sundays and Wednesday nights. "When the doors were open, I was there," Davis says. "Every sermon that the preacher ever preached I knew by heart, and I could quote the Bible from Genesis to Revelation."
On Sunday nights Davis would return to his room and sit in the dark, his mind racing. He would try to calm himself, but nothing seemed to slow down the thoughts that churned in his brain. "There was a real me and a fake me," Davis says. "And I had them all fooled." When the house was finally quiet he would take a .25-caliber automatic pistol out of a drawer and point it at his head.
On many nights the gun was loaded; some nights it was not. "I would put a gun to my head with no bullets in the chamber and just sit there on the bed and pull the trigger over and over," Davis says. He presses his index finger to the side of his head and holds it there for a moment, then casually he squeezes his thumb down as if he were switching off a light. Now I lay me down to sleep....
"I used to sit there and try to imagine what it would look like," he says. "I would try to decide whether I wanted my brains to end up on this side of the room or that side." I pray the Lord my soul to keep....
"I knew that if I did that, it would hurt my mother and father, that they would be sorry for what they had done to me. They would have to live with that for the rest of their lives." If I should die before I wake....
"All through my teenage years I constantly thought about committing suicide," Davis says. "I would hold a knife to my stomach and think about stabbing myself, or sometimes I'd consider running out into the street in front of a car. Many nights I would sit in my room crying and ask God why He was letting these things happen to me. I felt like an ugly duckling, unloved and alone in the world...." I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Glenn Davis lowered his head for a moment, then looked up at the sea of faces surrounding him and smiled. At first he bit his words off carefully at the roots so he could be sure they wouldn't flower, but soon they came tumbling out. For 40 minutes he had sat by himself in the Houston Astros' clubhouse, trying to figure out how to explain the anguish and confusion he had been feeling all day.
It was July 28, and Davis had gone into that night's game against the Atlanta Braves in an 0-for-19 batting slump and ended it by driving in all of the Astros' runs for a 4-2 victory. He drove in one run with a single in the first inning, then with two out in the bottom of the eighth he hit a Doyle Alexander fastball for a three-run homer. That kept Davis among the National League leaders in home runs and RBIs, where he has been most of the season and where he remained at the end of last week with 25 knocks and 77 runs batted in.
Now in his second major league season—last year he hit 20 home runs in 100 games—the 25-year-old Davis has established himself as a contender for the National League's Most Valuable Player Award, and he's a big reason the Astros have a six-game lead in the NL West. He has done all this while playing in the zipless muck that passes for air in the Houston Astrodome.
St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog has called Davis baseball's "next legitimate home run hitter," and Houston batting coach Denis Menke thinks that Davis may already be there. "He has a home run hitter's swing and a better stroke, I think, than Mike Schmidt's," Menke says. "But Glenn doesn't just want to be a power hitter, he wants to be a hitter."