Would-be Chicago sports villain Rajai Davis relives Game 7 homer — every day

Another curious teammate in the A's clubhouse at Hohokam Park stopped Rajai Davis on Thursday to relive the moment Davis homered in World Series Game 7 against the Cubs."Just to talk about it and tell me he was jogging when I hit it,'' Davis said,...

Would-be Chicago sports villain Rajai Davis relives Game 7 homer — every day

Another curious teammate in the A's clubhouse at Hohokam Park stopped Rajai Davis on Thursday to relive the moment Davis homered in World Series Game 7 against the Cubs."Just to talk about it and tell me he was jogging when I hit it,'' Davis said,...

25 February 2017 Saturday 15:03
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 Would-be Chicago sports villain Rajai Davis relives Game 7 homer — every day

Another curious teammate in the A's clubhouse at Hohokam Park stopped Rajai Davis on Thursday to relive the moment Davis homered in World Series Game 7 against the Cubs.

"Just to talk about it and tell me he was jogging when I hit it,'' Davis said, laughing.

This happens regularly since Davis, then with the Indians, drilled a game-tying, two-run, 369-foot home run off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning. Davis and former Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler enjoyed reminiscing earlier this winter at a golf event in Las Vegas where Fowler razzed him about almost ruining everything. From players to clubhouse attendants to random people at airports, every day somebody feels compelled to ask Davis about the line drive that cleared the left-field fence at Progressive Field and created such hysteria.

Every Cubs fan can relate to the impact — and remembers all too well the time Davis nearly became the biggest villain in Chicago sports history.

"It's really amazing to affect so many people,'' said Davis, who signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the A's last month. "It blows my mind that everybody remembers exactly where they were, what they were doing when that happened. For so many people to share that with me, it's something special.''

Davis woke up the morning of Game 7 convinced he would do something special. He had carried that feeling around since before the Series began. That's when Bobby Kingsbury, a former teammate from the Pirates minor-league system, sent his buddy a long text that mentally prepared Davis for stepping to the plate with one on and two outs in the eighth trailing 6-4.

"So that moment for me really started seven games earlier with that text,'' Davis said. "I was expecting it from Game 1, and now we get to Game 7, I see it developing. But I felt like I didn't really have the power to come through, so I appealed to a greater power. I asked God for strength to help me in this at-bat.''

Seeing Chapman on the mound actually strengthened Davis' resolve. A single off the lefty in Game 5 at Wrigley Field gave Davis confidence he carried into that at-bat. To prepare, Davis made a quick trip to the indoor batting cage before stepping out to the on-deck circle for a few cuts.

"I simulated the velocity as best I could,'' Davis said. "But I felt good. I was just focused on dead red, a fastball. He wasn't throwing any sliders. He hadn't given up a home run since June, so why would he change it?''

Photos from Game 7 of the World Series at Progressive Field in Cleveland on Nov. 2, 2016.

Davis choked up more than usual, locked in on the lefty's release point and worked the count to 2-2. Then Davis recalled fouling off a Chapman fastball clocked at 102 mph. Indians teammate Brandon Guyer stood on second, America sat on the edge of its seat and Davis saw the next pitch as clearly as any that had come out of Chapman's hand. It landed in the worst possible spot for Chapman, a knee-high strike at 98 mph — slower than his standard heat — that left the park in a hurry to tie the game at 6.

"When I made contact, I knew off the bat it was solid,'' Davis said. "I was saying to myself if that doesn't get out, I better be on second base. Once I saw it go into the stands, I was amazed. I didn't realize the magnitude of it until I rounded second and saw my teammates outside the dugout.''

By then, Davis had pointed to the sky rounding first and pounded his chest twice. Bedlam erupted. First baseman Anthony Rizzo described the Cubs' reaction that mirrored Chicago's.

"You kind of just go numb,'' Rizzo told reporters afterward.

In the Cubs clubhouse, workers who had begun wheeling in T-shirts and memorabilia for a celebration started wheeling everything back out. In the dugout after the inning, a shaken Chapman fought back tears. In the Cubs radio booth, WSCR-AM 670 play-by-play man Pat Hughes later said he felt "kind of sick to my stomach for a minute or two, to be honest. Stunned.'' On the North Side, every heart sank.

Meanwhile, Cleveland rocked as Davis high-fived Guyer twice at the plate before Indians teammate Carlos Santana picked up the man who had just hit one of the most dramatic homers ever in the World Series, whose life never would be the same.

"To see your teammates excited and filled with enthusiasm, I've never seen anything like that,'' said Davis, a 38th-round draft pick who has been with six teams over 10 seasons. "I was thanking God. I was like, this is something I've expected my whole career. I've always been that guy, always struggling, always fighting but still there.''

A rain delay, which Davis acknowledged "really helped them regain their composure," allowed the Cubs to recover, and you know the rest of the story. Davis chuckled recalling how his 10th-inning RBI single to center off Carl Edwards Jr. came close to tying the game again, and altering it.

"I hit that ball hard,'' Davis said. "If he had gotten that ball a little higher…"

Shaking his head, Davis doesn't have to finish the sentence. The 36-year-old journeyman enjoying his newfound celebrity doesn't have to do anything else in baseball, in fact, to secure a spot in baseball lore.

"As a ballplayer, you want to leave a legacy, otherwise you will be forgotten and when you die, nobody's going to remember you,'' Davis said. "Everybody wants to be remembered. I think they're going to remember me.''

Chicagoans agree, relieved they still can smile when they do.

dhaugh@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh

Caption Manager Joe Maddon on the Cubs' first games, at-bats and lineups

Manager Joe Maddon talks about the Cubs' first games, at-bats and lineups. (Mark Gonzales/Chicago Tribune)

Manager Joe Maddon talks about the Cubs' first games, at-bats and lineups. (Mark Gonzales/Chicago Tribune)

Caption Manager Joe Maddon on the Cubs' first games, at-bats and lineups

Manager Joe Maddon talks about the Cubs' first games, at-bats and lineups. (Mark Gonzales/Chicago Tribune)

Manager Joe Maddon talks about the Cubs' first games, at-bats and lineups. (Mark Gonzales/Chicago Tribune)

Caption Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer on Pedro Strop's contract extension

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer discusses the contract extension of reliever Pedro Strop on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. (Mark Gonzales/Chicago Tribune)

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer discusses the contract extension of reliever Pedro Strop on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. (Mark Gonzales/Chicago Tribune)

Caption Joe Maddon on the Cubs' relay and bunt drills

Cubs manager Joe Maddon discusses Jason Heyward's progress as well as the team's relay and bunt drills on Feb. 24, 2017, in Mesa, Ariz. (Mark Gonzales/Chicago Tribune)

Cubs manager Joe Maddon discusses Jason Heyward's progress as well as the team's relay and bunt drills on Feb. 24, 2017, in Mesa, Ariz. (Mark Gonzales/Chicago Tribune)

Caption Pedro Strop on signing a 1-year extension with the Cubs

Relief pitcher Pedro Strop discusses his new one-year deal with the Cubs on Feb. 24, 2017, in Mesa, Ariz.

Relief pitcher Pedro Strop discusses his new one-year deal with the Cubs on Feb. 24, 2017, in Mesa, Ariz.

Caption Javier Baez on driving a Polaris three-wheeled sports car

Cubs infielder Javier Baez describes driving a Polaris three-wheeled sports car on Feb. 24, 2017, in Mesa, Ariz. (Mark Gonzales/Chicago Tribune)

Cubs infielder Javier Baez describes driving a Polaris three-wheeled sports car on Feb. 24, 2017, in Mesa, Ariz. (Mark Gonzales/Chicago Tribune)

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