SAN ANTONIO – Before blacks were welcomed in Major League Baseball, many talented athletes used to play in the Negro League and on neighborhoods.
Back in the 1950s and 60s, the east side of San Antonio was an area where many skills were honed, and baseball kept the youth busy.
“I feel like we really got started because we could not play in other leagues,” said former baseball player Odie Davis III.
In the 1960s, baseball was a segregated sport, and minority players in San Antonio did not have a smooth playing field.
That’s why Nathaniel and Odie Davis III’s father, Odie Davis Jr., who helped found the YMCA on Commerce Street in the 1940s, went on to form a baseball team known as the Denver Heights Bears and attract a pool. with talent from the East Side.
“We needed a place to go and we never wanted you to give us anything. We just wanted to be included, “said Nathaniel Davis.
“(It) was so important that everyone had a way out on the weekends, you know, to practice … and loosen up and play a game on Sundays,” said Odie Davis.
“You had good coaches. And they taught us sportsmanship and responsibility, “said former Denver Heights Bears baseball player James Napper.
But efforts to offer black youth opportunities in baseball were often met with challenges. In addition to playing against teams in the South Texas Negro League, the Bears also faced white teams that did not show sporting behavior.
“They would tell you at the beginning, ‘We do not want you here.’ And say, ‘We will do everything in our power to make sure you lose.’ And they did, ”said Nathaniel Davis.
But the players fought back.
“They would cheat… And we would just get together, and it would make us stronger and would just get together, and we would just hit them with our bats. We just wanted to beat them, “said Nathaniel Davis.
Nathaniel Davis took over as manager of the Bears when his father died in 1975 and kept the team going until 2005. Odie Davis III got the chance to play in the major leagues for the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians. Opportunities forged years earlier in Pittman-Sullivan Park.
“That (Pittman-Sullivan) really gave the kids something to look forward to,” Napper said.
Many say that Davis Jr.’s legacy is a big part of why children and adults from all walks of life have the recreational area that still serves society today.
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