SAN ANTONIO – A former Major League Baseball player from San Antonio says when he met the late Hank Aaron as a kid, he knew he, too, could break glass ceilings.
“Hank was an inspiration because we all was able to touch him, and you could see him,” Odie Davis III said.
Davis is personally feeling the loss of the baseball legend and civil rights icon. Aaron died at 86 years old on Friday.
“I think that being readily available for the community was his biggest trait,” Davis said.
Davis traces the influence Aaron had on him back some six decades. During that time, his father, Odie Davis Jr., created an East Side neighborhood baseball team known as the Denver Heights Bears. The team had little resources, and outright prejudice was rampant, but Davis III says Aaron gave them motivation.
“He had come to the YMCA to talk to all of us. And as I said, it’s a special moment. You look back at it, and being 10 years old, I mean, that’s 55 years ago,” Davis III said.
Davis III would go on to have a career in Major League Baseball.
“Seventy-six I got drafted by the Cubs, and in 1977, I ended up signing with the Texas Rangers,” Davis III said.
Davis III also played for the Cleveland Indians. In large part, he credits his career to Aaron, born in 1934 in the segregated South. A man who he knows had it even harder than him.
“They were able to be successful doing that era, and it made anything that you try to dream believable,” Davis III said.
Around the same time, Aaron was making his mark in Major League Baseball, Davis III and so many other talented, young baseball players from San Antonio were cultivating good sportsmanship and honing talents at Pittman-Sullivan Park on Iowa street. Today, the park still a recreational space for kids who may one day carve their own paths in the big leagues.