Davalillo, whose older brother Yo-Yo played briefly for the Senators in 1953, started his pro career in 1958 as a pitcher. Called up to the Indians after only one full season as an outfielder, the Venezuelan missed two months in 1963 with a broken right wrist (hit with a pitch by Hank Aguirre) but still hit .292. He was Cleveland’s regular centerfielder for the next four seasons. In 1964 the 5’7″ 150-lb lefthander won a Gold Glove and led the league’s outfielders in double plays (5) and finished third in stolen bases (21). In his All-Star year, 1965, his .301 BA was the third-best in the AL, he finished fifth in stolen bases (26), and he led outfielders in total chances per game. However, he lost much of his range in subsequent years, and he was a poor-percentage basestealer. He was also hindered by his lack of power and his impatience at the plate. The Indians experimented with him as a pinch hitter in 1966 and ’67, but he was a poor 7-for-38 (.184) over that period.
After Davalillo bounced around for several years, the pinch-hitting experiment finally worked in St. Louis, where he led the NL in 1970 with 24 pinch hits and 73 pinch at-bats (.329). Traded to the Pirates with Nellie Briles for Matty Alou and George Brunet for 1971, he played outfield and pinch hit .333 for the World Champions. Pittsburgh’s regular left fielder in 1972, he hit .318, but he slumped the next two seasons (.184, .174), although he hit .625 for the A’s in the 1973 LCS. In Game Five, his RBI triple in the fourth (he scored when Jesus Alou singled) helped drive Doyle Alexander out of the game as Oakland clinched the series against the Orioles.
Davalillo went to the Mexican League early in 1974 and remained there until the Dodgers picked him up in August 1977 for their pennant drive (he hit .313). He became the first player to play for three different teams in the LCS, his only appearance being a crucial one. With the Phillies up 5-3 in Game Three, Davalillo beat out a drag bunt with two out in the ninth. He scored on Manny Mota‘s double, and the Dodgers rallied to win the game. They took the series the next day. Davalillo stayed with the Dodgers as a pinch hitter and reserve outfielder/first baseman for the next three seasons and retired with 95 pinch hits, which at that time tied him for sixth on the all-time list.