A life in baseball
|Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Garnett Davis, a Westside resident, was drafted by the Mets, but now teaches kids the art of baseball.
The year was 1947 and it proved to be a historic one for the world of baseball and for the country that calls the sport its national pastime.
At that time, a 60-year-old rule excluding African-Americans from playing Major League baseball was broken when Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
When Robinson made his debut on April 15, 1947, he was subject to both jeers and adulation. He also became a face of hope for people and players young and old, and even for those who were born years later, like Garnett Davis, a South Carolina native who was raised in Ohio.
"We grew up idolizing Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays," Davis said. "They paved the way, they were pioneers and they were our heroes."
Since age 7, Davis and his friends were taught the fundamentals of the game - and proper behavior away from it - by former baseball players in the Negro Leagues.
Decades later, after having his own personal struggle with race in professional baseball, Davis is sharing the lessons he learned along the way, both on the baseball diamond and in real life.
The Davis family moved to Columbus in 1956, and a young Garnett spent his childhood becoming the best athlete he could be. At East High School, he was a seven time varsity athlete in three sports, those being basketball, football, and, of course, baseball.
Upon graduating in 1969, he was taken in the third round of a player's draft by the New York Mets and signed as a catcher, even though he was positioned at third base and as a centerfielder during his minor league playing days. However, those days did not last too long.
Davis spent three years playing in instructional camps or with the organization's various minor league affiliates, but was never called upon to suit up for the Mets.
"I didn't understand why I wasn't being utilized," he said. "I had a good work ethic, I worked hard, and I was batting .288 off of professional pitchers. They (the minor league management) told me that if I wanted to play, I had to wait my turn. I know I was young and impatient, but I also knew that I was ready to play."
Davis said after his three year contract ended, he inquired about a trade, but was told that if he requested one, he would "never play professional ball again."
He explained that these actions, as well as managerial politicking and "seeing and hearing a lot of bad stuff" caused him to step away from the game he loved since childhood.
"I still think black kids were not getting the chance to play even though they were good," he said. "This was disheartening because all we wanted to do was play at that level."
After that experience, Davis did something he always wanted to do - attend college. He enrolled at Central State University where he got his bachelor's of science in recreation with a minor in sociology and Bible study. He also played for the Dayton AA Baseball League, and due to his accomplishments there, was inducted into their league's Hall of Fame in 1995.
Having retired from a long career as a lineman with AEP last year, Davis recently bought and restored the Holly Hills Laundromat on the city's Westside. He has also been trying to restart his G. Davis Sports Camp, where he taught children "old school baseball" fundamentals and the valuable lessons he learned by being involved with the industry and from his baseball heroes.
"Things happen in ways you don't want them to, but that's life. I was disappointed and angry at the time...but you have to look at the positive side of things. You've got to keep going."
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