Davis began his career as an outfielder in Cleveland, but was traded to the Giants in 1893 for future Hall of Famer Buck Ewing. Primarily a third baseman his first four years in New York, he became a full-time shortstop in 1897. He was the Giants’ player-manager for part of 1895, and again from mid-1900 through 1901.
His anti-establishment stance in 1903 may have cost Davis consideration for the Hall of Fame; he wasn’t enshrined until the Veteran’s Committee named him to the Hall in 1998. Davis was an outstanding hitter (he batted over .300 for nine consecutive seasons with the Giants), and an even better fielder, during a time when the National League was bitterly divided and corrupt. His problems began after the 1902 season, his first with the White Sox. Dissatisfied with Charles Comiskey’s pay structure, Davis elected to jump back to the National League Giants. When peace was declared between the two warring leagues early in 1903, Davis was “awarded” to the White Sox, but he had other ideas. He sat out the season until John Brush, president of the National League, sanctioned an illegal scheme hatched by the Giants to regain Davis. After four games in a Giant uniform, Davis was served with an injunction. John Montgomery Ward, the famous baseball lawyer, represented Davis in court, and his efforts were supported by Brush, who filed a counter-suit to keep Davis in the NL. On July 15, 1903 the case was thrown out, and peace was restored in baseball. Years later, Ban Johnson punished Ward for his impertinence by seeing to it that he was not appointed NL president. As for Davis, he went on to play six more seasons with the White Sox, though he never again batted over .278.