Dave Nelson, former Cleveland Indians player, coach, and broadcaster, passed away on Monday at the age of 73 after a long battle with liver cancer.
David “Davey” Earl Nelson’s path to a long career in Major League Baseball began in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, on June 20, 1944. After his days at Junipero Serra High School in Gardena, California, and both Compton Junior College and Los Angeles State College, he was signed by the Indians as an amateur free agent prior to the 1964 season. He debuted at the age of 23 at the beginning of the 1968 season and spent a pair of seasons in Cleveland, serving as a second baseman, shortstop, and corner outfielder.
He was traded following the 1969 season in a five-player deal to the Washington Senators, the organization with whom he would have his greatest success over the next six seasons. He stole 51 bases for the Texas Rangers in 1972 in their first season of existence after the relocation of the Senators to the Lone Star State and he was an All-Star in 1973, when he set career highs with a .286 average, 24 doubles, seven homers, and 48 RBI over 142 games as the team’s full-time second baseman. A speed threat throughout his career, he remains the only Rangers player in franchise history to steal second, third, and home in the same inning (doing so against the Indians on August 30, 1974). He spent his final two big league seasons in Kansas City with the Royals in 1976 and 1977.
Nelson moved into the next phase of his baseball career shortly after his big league career ended, first working as a coach for the baseball team at Texas Christian University before spending more than 20 years as a coach and instructor with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s, Montreal Expos, the Indians, and later, the Milwaukee Brewers. He spent some significant years in Cleveland from 1992 to 1997, working on manager Mike Hargrove’s staff as the team’s first base coach during the most memorable stretch of time in the history of the organization, and he later moved up to the broadcast booth, taking over for Herb Score on radio calls in 1998 and 1999.
He joined the Brewers ball club in 2001, first serving as a minor league outfield instructor for two seasons before joining the big league staff as the team’s first base coach from 2003 to 2006. He followed that time back in the booth, working as a pregame analyst for Brewers’ broadcasts on Fox Sports Wisconsin, and also served as Milwaukee’s Director of Alumni Relations before stepping away from the role last year. He learned last August that he had Stage 4 liver cancer that had spread to his esophagus upon seeing a doctor after experiencing difficulty swallowing. Chemotherapy that began at the end of the 2017 season initially helped, but his situation worsened in the last week and he was moved into hospice care last Thursday.
In addition to his impact on the game of baseball, Nelson’s legacy also includes his work with children orphaned due to the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. He held an annual golf tournament, the Davey Nelson Charity Golf Tournament, which has raised more than $250,000 in funds for Open Arms Home for Children.
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