Vic Davalillo, a two-time World Series champion who spent 16 seasons in the major leagues and won a Gold Glove as an outfielder, died on Wednesday in Caracas, Venezuela. He was 84 or 87; sources differ on his age.
His daughter Helga Davalillo said he died after emergency surgery for an intestinal obstruction and renal insufficiency.
Baseball Reference lists Davalillo’s date of birth as July 30, 1939, but Davalillo considered July 31 his birthday, and his biographer, Asdrúbal Fuenmayor, wrote that Davalillo was born in 1936. The 1969 Sporting News Baseball Register also said he was born in 1936.
Davalillo signed with the Cincinnati Reds organization in 1958 at age 18, starting as a left-handed pitcher in minor league ball. But he was eventually prized more for his bat and increasingly used in the outfield. His contract was sold to the Cleveland Indians organization in 1961, and the next year he won the batting title of the Triple-A International League with a .346 average.
He made his major league debut on opening day in 1963 against the Minnesota Twins, in Minnesota, as the Indians’ leadoff hitter against Camilo Pascual.
Davalillo got his first hit the next day off the future Hall of Famer Jim Kaat and went on to hit .292 with seven homers and 36 runs batted in. His rookie season was interrupted on June 12, when a pitch by Hank Aguirre of the Detroit Tigers struck his forearm, breaking it. The injury sidelined him until Aug. 10.
Davalillo won a Gold Glove award as an outfielder in 1964.
He was an All-Star in 1965, when he hit .301 with five homers, 40 RBIs and 26 stolen bases, finishing third in the American League batting race behind Tony Oliva of the Twins and Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox.
He was traded to the California Angels in June 1968, part of a big league career that took him to the St. Louis Cardinals (1969-70), the Pittsburgh Pirates (1971-73), the Oakland Athletics (1973-74) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (1977-80).
Davalillo hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat for the Cardinals on June 1, 1969. That season he made his only two major league pitching appearances, on June 30 and July 3, failing to retire any of the four batters he faced.
Davalillo finished with a .279 average, 36 homers, 329 RBIs and 125 stolen bases, winning World Series titles with the 1971 Pirates, when they defeated the Baltimore Orioles in seven games; and the 1973 Athletics, when they beat the New York Mets in seven. He had a .323 average in 22 postseason games, including going 4 for 20 in the World Series.
In Venezuelan Winter League ball, Davalillo won seven titles over 30 seasons, from 1957-58 through 1986-87. He became the league’s first .400 hitter over a full season, in 1961-62, the Society for American Baseball Research said, and won four Venezuela batting championships.
He had a .325 career average in the Venezuelan league with a record 1,505 hits.
Víctor José Davalillo Romero’s place of birth is usually listed as Cabimas, a western city on the shore of Maracaibo Lake. But Fuenmayor wrote in his biography, published in 2006, that Davalillo had told him that he was born further east, in Churuguara, shortly before the family moved to Cabimas. An older brother, Pompeyo, played briefly for the Washington Senators in 1953.
The ballpark in Cabimas was named after Davalillo in 1987, and the Venezuelan Winter League’s Most Valuable Player Award was named after him.
Davalillo’s marriage in 1961 to Luisa Ramona Barrera ended in divorce in 1969, according to S.A.B.R. He married Zoraida Caraballo later that year. Information on survivors besides his daughter was not immediately available.
Davalillos’s former Venezuelan team, Leones de Caracas, said it would wear a patch with his name and No. 2 on its jersey sleeves for the rest of the winter season.