Legend of Big Joe Davis grows in Greenville
Joe Davis, a Texas native selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 19th round of the 2019 Draft, describes himself as “just a husky guy who plays first base.” But to fans of his current team, the Greenville Drive, and throughout the Boston organization, he’s achieved larger-than-life status. Meet
Joe Davis, a Texas native selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 19th round of the 2019 Draft, describes himself as “just a husky guy who plays first base.” But to fans of his current team, the Greenville Drive, and throughout the Boston organization, he’s achieved larger-than-life status.
Meet “Big Joe” Davis, a Paul Bunyan-esque Minor League Baseball folk hero.
On Sunday, April 10, Big Joe was honored with what may be the most unique player-related giveaway of the 2022 Minor League season. The Drive, Boston’s High-A affiliate, distributed bobbleheads featuring the slugging University of Houston product hunkered down in front of his camper, cooking a homemade sausage link above a roaring fire.
Davis did indeed live in his 36-foot camper throughout the 2021 season, renting out space in an RV park. He split the year between Single-A Salem and Greenville, and for portions of both stints he roomed with good friend and fellow infielder Stephen Scott. Davis and Scott both returned to Greenville to start the 2022 season, although this time around Davis left the camper at home.
As for sausage-making, Davis said that’s long been a family tradition and part of a larger do-it-yourself outdoorsman ethos that he’s subscribed to his whole life.
“I grew up hunting and fishing, and it’s just part of hunting: You have to process the deer and wild game,” he said. “I’ve done it ever since I was little…. These days my dad and I are the ones who really get after it, skinning the deer, putting the meat in the grinder, and then the meat in the casing. We do everything our own selves.”
Davis only played 47 games for Greenville in 2021, but within that small sample he made a lasting impression.
“He came to us in July and it was amazing,” said Drive general manager Eric Jarinko. “We had Tyreque Reed to start the year [at first base] and the fans loved him. He was promoted to [Double-A] Portland and Joe took his place. It became a whole other element of fan love. Never seen anything like it, how much fans like him. It’s tough to explain -- he’s just a down-to-earth guy.”
“People were calling the front office, ‘Hey, is Big Joe Davis playing?’” added Davis, in a somewhat mystified fashion. “It’s funny, the crowd cheers louder when people announce my name. I think people pull for a guy who doesn’t look like a professional baseball player, who goes out there and has success.”
The “Big Joe” nickname, a fitting sobriquet for a 230-pound slugging sausage-maker, was bestowed upon Davis by Drive PA announcer Chuck Hussion. The fans embraced it, as did Davis, and “Big Joe” now appears as part of the videoboard graphic when Davis steps to the plate.
As for having his own bobblehead, Davis said when Jarinko first approached him about it he figured it was a joke. But after receiving a photo of a prototype, his reaction was “It’s gonna be awesome!” Jarinko, meanwhile, reports that he received bobblehead requests from players, coaches and coordinators throughout the Boston system.
“[My friends and family], they kind of expected it,” said Davis. “Like, ‘You just have that personality -- you’re larger than life. Things like that just happen.’ To them it was, ‘About time!’ but it’s still surprising to me.”
After Davis was assigned to Greenville to start the 2022 season, the Drive scheduled his bobblehead giveaway as part of their opening homestand.
“We thought that whether he’s with us or not he’s going to be a popular bobblehead,” said Jarinko. “And it just worked out. It’s not too often you can give a bobblehead away of a player who’s still active with the team.”
On his bobblehead day, playing against Hudson Valley, Davis added to his mystique by blasting his first home run of the season.
“I really wanted to get a hit, and as it so happened it was a home run. I’ll take it,” said Davis. “There was no added pressure or anything. Fans were like, ‘Hey, you gonna hit a home run today?’ ‘Nope, probably not.’ It was a coincidence it worked out that way, a funny coincidence.”
And thus, another chapter was added to the legend of Big Joe Davis. What facet of his personality will capture attention next?
“I can’t name anything off the top of my head,” said Davis. “Somebody will probably see something and talk about it, but I’ll just think it’s normal.”