EAST ORANGE, NJ — Longtime and beloved East Orange employee Mike Davis, fondly known as “Big Mike” and the “Voice of East Orange,” died March 7 at age 57.
News of his death reverberated throughout the city as friends, family, colleagues and loved ones took to social media to share their fondest memories of Davis.
For almost four decades, Davis was instrumental in guiding students and student-athletes to reach their best potential and achieve their dreams while working in the East Orange Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs. Most people would say that there wasn’t a student-athlete whom Davis did not know.
Davis began his first day working for the city of East Orange on May 12, 1986, at Baldwin Park near the former Clifford J. Scott High School, now known as STEM Academy. During the past 35 years, Davis was the connector between East Orange and many sports franchises in the New Jersey/New York area. It was through him that the city was able to forge strong partnerships with the N.J. Devils, N.Y. Giants, N.Y. Jets, N.Y. Knicks, N.Y. Liberty, N.Y. Mets, N.Y. Yankees and the Nets when they were still in New Jersey, which ultimately led to sponsorships, tickets to games for the youth, donations, giveaways, sports camps and specialized clinics for children in East Orange.
Davis worked hard as the program leader and liaison for the city to all the major sports teams in the area. His accomplishments garnered several donations that helped the city of East Orange maintain and upgrade its parks and athletics fields. Most recently, Davis was the liaison for a generous donation of state-of-the-art fitness equipment from the N.J. Devils to refurbish and reopen the East Orange Recreation Pride and Power Fitness Center. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony held last year, Davis was honored for his years of commitment and dedication to the East Orange Recreation Department. He also was the recipient of a Lifetime Citizen Award by the city of East Orange in 2019.
“Mike often said ‘I am a pest — not to be annoying, but a good pest to bring the best out of everyone in the community,’” East Orange Recreation and Cultural Affairs acting Director Jerome Pearson said, adding that Davis told him not to be like everyone else when there is a “dead ball period” for nothing going on. So Pearson has adopted the “no dead ball period” mantra thanks to Davis.
From the parks to the pros, Davis mentored countless youth, including professional athletes such as Jabrill Peppers of the N.Y. Giants and Rasul Douglas of the North Carolina Panthers.
Davis was also the announcer for all the youth sports home games in East Orange. His booming voice could be heard in the stadiums, the schools, the gyms and the parks, where he would gleefully call out the name of every student-athlete and make them feel like one of the greats. In the span of his career, Davis had a knack for knowing the name of every kid he had ever coached, mentored, cheered and announced at all the football, basketball and baseball games, as well as at other events throughout the city.
His final “announcer” appearance was the last game of the East Orange Campus High School boys basketball 2020-21 season. In the home game against North Bergen, Davis’ familiar voice was heard booming: “The Jaguars win! The Jaguars win! THEEE JAAAGUARS WIN!” followed by “Good night, ladies and gentlemen, from the Campus.”
In addition to cheering on East Orange’s young athletes, Davis also took time to teach and instruct them in the art of announcing. His easy-going style made it fun for the neighborhood to come up to him in the announcer’s booth and he would quickly put them to work, saying, “I need you to spot for me.” Each young athlete would happily grab the binoculars and help him call the games throughout the city.
“Mike was competitive,” recalled a former student athlete. “He was the first person I knew that was genuinely in my corner.”
The legend, who was interred at was interred at Rosedale Memorial Cemetery in Montclair, will be missed throughout the city.
“We are immensely proud to have known Mike,” East Orange Campus Athletic Director Michael Baldwin said. “He was an integral part of our team, keeping our fans and students entertained throughout the game. We will miss him.”
“Truly an East Orange legend, Mike has touched the lives of so many people, but especially our youth to whom he dedicated his entire career,” Mayor Ted Green said. “His voice will be missed, but his legacy will live on forever in East Orange history. The greatest way we can honor him is to continue to uplift and motivate our young people as Mike did so selflessly throughout his life.”
This memorial piece was written by Connie Jackson and Kerry Porter.