Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Rick Cleveland remembers Jim Davenport

Last week's death of Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Jim Davenport brought a barrage of memories, all good ones.

His nickname was Peanuts. Don't know how he got it, and, for some reason, I never asked. My daddy just called him “Nuts” and it seemed as natural as Sam or Joe to me.

Davenport was like the favorite uncle you rarely saw and wished you saw more. We usually saw him twice a year, not counting on TV. Every summer we'd take a trip to Houston when Davenport and his San Francisco Giants teammates would come to drum the old Colt 45s-turned-Houston Astros mercilessly. Then, during the off-season, Davenport would come visit Hattiesburg where he had been a football and baseball star at Mississippi Southern College back in the early '50s.

Davenport hailed from Siluria, Ala., and had grown up wanting to play quarterback for the Crimson Tide. Bama didn't recruit him, at least partly because he was married and Bama, as many back then, didn't allow married players on the team.

So, Davenport drove through Tuscaloosa to get to Southern, where he quarterbacked the then-Southerners to two straight victories over Alabama.

Hall of Famer Hamp Cook played guard and linebacker and made Little All America for those Southern teams and he remembers Davenport as “the kind of leader you want at quarterback, a field general in every respect.”

“Back then we played both ways, everybody did, even the quarterback,” Cook says. “He wasn't a big guy, but when we went on defense he played safety and he played it extremely well. All the players loved him and gravitated to him.”

The Alabama quarterback in those two MSC victories? None other than Bart Starr. Cook sacked the future pro football legend on the last play of a 25-19 Southern victory over eventual SEC Champion Bama in 1953. Southern players carried one of the goldposts into the team hotel in Montgomery that night.

Cook followed Davenport's baseball career. “The way he played third base was just pretty,” Cook said. “I don't know of anyone who played it any better or made it look easier.”

My own memories of “Nuts” mostly come from those trips to Houston and old Colt .45 Park where the mosquitoes were so big my mama was scared they were going to carry me and my brother off.

Davenport would have us down in the visitors' dugout and clubhouse before and after the game.

There, we met Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Felipe Alou, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal and all the rest of those tremendous Giants teams. I remember shaking hands with McCovey — “Stretch” they called him — and his huge hands covering my arm almost up to my elbow.

I remember how those African American players gravitated toward Davenport and he back to them. They were close pals and you could tell. Mays, in particular, treated my brother and me as if we were somebody special just because we were guests of Davenport. In retrospect, that was a valuable lesson for a child of segregated South Mississippi at the time.

Davenport was a two-time All-Star, who won one Gold Glove and was always among the top vote getters at third base. He was a career .259 hitter, who batted just ahead of Mays in the Giants lineup.

Says Cook, “The thing about Peanuts is that fame and money never changed him one lick. He was the same Peanuts Davenport in the World Series as he was when he got to Southern from Siluria. Just a downhome, modest guy who loved to play ball.”

Jim “Peanuts” Davenport was all that. He was 82 when he died.


Rick Cleveland ( is the historian for the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and a syndicated columnist.


Anonymous said...

I know you if anyone knows they are not "Goldposts"

Anonymous said...

There's a restaurant in Hattiesburg named Goldpost.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS