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Monday, September 15, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Between The Lines

Orioles' Davis Ready To Make Valiant Return

AP

BALTIMORE - Eric Davis is ready to play baseball again.

Davis was to complete his valiant return from colon-cancer surgery by starting in right field today for Baltimore in the first game of a day-night doubleheader against Cleveland. It will be his first game since undergoing the operation June 13.

"I'm not selfish or trying to make a statement or anything on my own," Davis said yesterday. "I've been a baseball player for a long time. This is what I do. I just consider myself going back to work.

"I knew this day would come. I just didn't know when or where."

The timing of his return was much more uncertain than the location. From the moment he began working out with the Orioles on Aug. 22, Davis knew he wanted to make his triumphant return at Camden Yards.

"I think for the organization, as well as the fans, they deserve it for the support they've given me all year," Davis said.

Davis, 35, received thousands of letters and phone calls since doctors removed a baseball-size tumor from his colon. The outpouring of emotion was particularly gratifying and surprising to Davis because he had been with the organization only since December, when he signed as a free agent.

"It's going to be a big day. Huge," infielder Jeff Reboulet said. "It's unbelievable what he's done. It's a big thing not just for our team but for everyone who's ever had to fight cancer. Obviously, people in all aspects of life are going to draw strength from this."

Davis last played May 25 and was put on the disabled list May 31 after hitting .302 with 10 doubles, seven home runs and 21 runs batted in in 34 games. His slugging percentage of .543 is the best on the team.

If Davis regains his strength, he will be on the Orioles' 25-man playoff roster. If not, he can live with it.

"I've already won. Just by putting the uniform on and being blessed to have the cancer removed from my body," he said. "If it doesn't pan out that I'm on the postseason roster, I'll be here cheering for the guys just like I was playing."

Note

-- Four years after his bitter departure from the Chicago White Sox, Carlton Fisk returned for the first time as the team retired his No. 72. Fisk caught for 24 seasons, leaving Boston to join Chicago in 1981. He broke Johnny Bench's home-run record for a catcher in 1990 and finished with 351 at that position.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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