When the veterans of the Baltimore Orioles' pitching staff saw him for the first time in spring training a year ago, they knew what Storm Davis was.
He was their Young Frankenstein.
Jim Palmer, Mike Flanagan and Scott McGregor, 20-game winners all, took the youngest player in the major leagues under their wings and he's been there ever since. It shows.
George (Storm) Davis has no bolts in his neck or scars on his forehead. But don't let that fool you. He's a monster.
With the Orioles paralyzed by a seven-game losing streak recently, it was Davis who took the mound in Kansas City and pitched the team to a poised and vital victory. And Friday night in Boston he shut out the Red Sox on three hits, lowering his ERA to 2.95.
The Orioles now confidently expect Davis to get the ball every fifth day for the remainder of the 20th Century. No one is rashly predicting Davis will approach Palmer's records, but no one is predicting that he won't, either.
Davis' nickname among his mates is Cyclone, which sounds like a play on Storm, but really isn't. It's spelled "Cy Clone," because the 21-year-old Davis is being systematically and deliberately cloned from bits and pieces of all the Orioles' perennial Cy Young Award candidates.
As the Orioles see it, Davis has the tall, lean body and the analytical brain of Palmer, the poised temperament and quietly religious manner of McGregor and the physical toughness and competitiveness of Flanagan.
Palmer is in charge of monitoring Davis' fast ball, which resembles his own as a youth; that's hardly a surprise since Palmer was Davis' hero as a boy and he modeled his delivery on that of Gentleman Jim. If you watched the shadows of the 6-foot-3, 194-pound Palmer and the 6-4, 207-pound Davis on a silk screen as they pitched, you probably couldn't tell them apart.
Flanagan, known for his curve ball, keeps an eye on Davis' huge, overhand hook, while Prof. McGregor has been instructed to give Davis a graduate degree in the art of the changeup.
Pitching Coach Ray Miller says, "My job is not to mess him up." Actually, Miller works with Davis on his slider.
"Yup, he's about as perfect for that age as you can be," said Manager Joe Altobelli, who almost hates to discuss Davis because, "Jeez, I don't want to jinx him. He hasn't had one bad outing since spring training began.
"I couldn't imagine a youngster with a better attitude or more coachable . . . The way he's pitching, if he doesn't keep getting the ball, shame on me."
In a sense, the final version of Storm Davis has probably not even begun to appear. He is a young man who has been the blessed project of his elders. His father George Sr., a high school football and baseball coach in Jacksonville, has coached his son at every level through high school. He was 42-3 in high school, with 496 strikeouts in 278 innings and a 0.45 ERA. He was all-state in football.
"My father and I are a lot alike; kind of laid-back, don't get too excited about anything," said Davis. "When I call him after a game, he just says, 'That's good. Keep your head level, thank the Lord and work harder.' "
Davis' mother is a talk show hostess on WCRJ radio in Jacksonville and the son has the mother's smooth, easy manner. Married for nearly two years and active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Davis is deliberately dull in the gossip-magazine sense. He's interested in being a very great pitcher and that goal keeps him occupied.
Davis arrived in the majors just over a year ago and, although he has miles to go before he is a star, his progress reads like the biography of a future Cooperstown resident.
He pitched only four games in AAA in April 1982 before making the jump from AA to the majors. "I was just a (hard) thrower with a big curve ball," he said. "Now, I'm trying to become a pitcher."
As a rookie, Davis was 8-4 with a 3.49 ERA, but he improved every month. His season highlight came when he overpowered Milwaukee on a six-hitter for his first complete game Oct. 1 as the Orioles almost swept a series, and a season, from the Brewers.
In the offseason, "I sat down and set myself quite a few goals," said Davis. Foremost was his determination to improve his 4.54 ERA as a starter.
"I was worrying about what was going to happen in the fifth or sixth inning while I was still in the second or third inning. Jim (Palmer) set me straight. You can't get ahead of yourself. You have to concentrate inning by inning. My goal this year was not to allow big innings. Right now, I'm not concerned about complete games. I just want to keep our team in the game every time out."
Not long ago, Davis gave a good example of his new method, bearing down from the start and pitching 7 1/3 shutout innings against Chicago. He left the game in a scoreless tie; the Orioles won, 1-0.
"Mike (Flanagan) has helped me understand how you break the game down into segments. In the early innings, you establish your fast ball, make them respect it . . . In the middle innings, you work in your other pitches more, give them a different look. Then, from the seventh inning on, after they've seen everything you've got, and you've lost a little off your fast ball, you've really got to pitch to get them out."
Davis' new pitches, the changeup and slider, are still in the process of being worked into his game repertoire. His fine fast ball, usually clocked in the 90 mph range, has the disadvantage of being string straight, a liability as a game progresses. And he has occasional spells of wildness.
But his confidence has gradually grown with his added responsibilities.
As he and McGregor drove to Memorial Stadium the day after they'd learned that Flanagan would be on the disabled list until July, Davis said, "You know, Scott, somebody's going to have to take over and be our stopper. With Mike down, somebody's got to step forward and be the leader of the pack."
McGregor thinks that, perhaps, Storm Davis had someone particular in mind.