But Davis is a hard worker who doesn't get down on himself. "No matter how bad things got, the guy was always eager," says Murphy. "It was always, 'C'mon, tell me what I'm doing wrong.' " Finally, in September, Davis found a groove, hitting .375. "In a lot of ways, this year has just been a carryover from September," says Davis. "September got me believing in Michael D again."
Given the fine athletes in his family, Davis should have faith in himself, on genetic grounds alone. His father, John, was a guard for Oakland's McClymonds High School on a team that included Bill Russell coming off the bench. His mother, Rosetta, swung a mean stick in women's softball leagues. His older brother, John Jr., was the best athlete at Hoover High School in San Diego—Ted Williams's old school—while he and Mike were there. And his younger brother, Mark, a junior at Stanford, is a center-fielder who should go high in next month's major league free-agent draft. Last year Mark suffered through a season nearly identical to his brother's—he hit .231—but this year he's on the rebound, too, batting .371.
In the off-season Mike Davis picked a personal theme, "Comin' Alive in '85." He said it so often that a family friend gave him a T shirt inscribed with those words. In wintertime workouts, Murphy discovered the reason Davis had had so much trouble judging flies—he had gotten into the habit of looking at the ground as the ball was coming to him.
Murphy also clued Davis in to wild-boar hunting near Salinas, Calif. "We got close enough to see those big tusks," Davis recalls, "and that set ol' M.D.'s heart to racing some kind of terrible. I was carrying three guns and about seven knives, but when the guide said, 'Go get him,' all I could do was take baby steps."
He took decidedly bigger strides in spring training, with six homers, 15 RBIs and a .324 average in 22 games, and kept rolling into the regular season. After 11 games he had five homers and 16 RBIs and was hitting .385. The most encouraging part of his comeback is that he's hitting .367 off lefthanders, against whom he had a .205 average last year. Still, even the wicked bat of ol' M.D. hasn't been enough to get the A's over .500; they were 14-17 as of Sunday.
Williams believes Davis is in the beginning stages of a transition that many gifted hitters go through. "Clemente, Aaron, myself, we all came up going the other way," he says. "Once you get to know the pitchers, you learn how to pull, and that's what's happening with Mike now. He's started out right nice."
Except for trying Davis in the second spot in two games, Moore has continued to bat him sixth, seventh or even eighth. "I just want Mike to settle in and enjoy the success," he says. "I think sometimes it's better to leave well enough alone."
Davis seems content to think of himself as a line-drive hitter. "Hitting the long ball felt good to me, so I have to watch out I don't get home-runitis," he says. It doesn't bother him that his name isn't on the All-Star ballot. "Those things will come," he says. "I'm just making sure 'Comin' Alive in '85' doesn't turn into 'A Little More of '84.' "