Denied his ultimate dream, Cherry Hill author spins a compelling tale

Former baseball player Davidson encountered famous names during time in minors

Cherry Hill resident Bill Davidson (right), at spring training 1957 with the New York Yankees in Saint Petersburg, Fla. (Photo credit: Bill Davidson/Special to the Sun)

Cherry Hill resident Bill Davidson has made peace with the fact he won’t be remembered alongside the hallowed names of the great New York Yankees of the 1950s and 1960s: Mantle, Maris, Ford, Martin, Bauer and Kubek.

For him, the journey of being a professional baseball player — though one who spent his entire career in the minor leagues — was enough to satisfy him rather than the actual destination.

That doesn’t mean Davidson doesn’t have stories to tell. He does, and they’ve been compiled for his new book, “Dugouts, Icons and Dreams: Minor League Baseball Career, Major League Baseball Memories.”

A three-sport star (baseball, basketball and track) at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, Davidson felt the pull of two different disciplines nearing graduation. Basketball was his favorite sport, but baseball was the one he thought he had the greatest chance to fulfill professional aspirations. He earned a basketball scholarship to Temple University in 1956, but instead decided to sign with the Yankees as an infielder.

Over the next 11 seasons, mostly in the Yanks system, Davidson toiled in the minors, playing on teams based mostly in the southern part of the United States. It managed to put him in contact with some unique personalities, some of which defined the times, but none as striking as former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

“They had a team called the (Havana) Sugar Kings, and he was a big fan of baseball and I got to meet him. I was with Miami then and I was on the elevator going up to my room and Pepper (Martin, Miami’s manager) said ‘come on, Fidel’s down in the dining room.’ So me and another guy went down and he had about 11 of his henchmen along with him,” Davidson recalled. “I was about 19 or 20, and he looked at me and said ‘oh, so young.’ And we were just talking a little baseball, so that was interesting.”

Davidson admitted that writing the book was a cathartic exercise, because, for many years, he felt like kicking himself for not making it to the major leagues. The more he looked at the stories and personalities which comprised the book’s subject matter, he began to reverse that stance.

Putting it all in print, Davidson hopes it will serve as an inspiration for youngsters, so they might have the courage to live out their dreams. His greatest bit of advice is, you might not achieve your ultimate goal, but pursuit of that goal is ultimately what’s important.

“I played in a lot of places, some of which are now big-league cities: Denver, Houston, New Orleans, Miami, even played in Hawaii. Through baseball, I met a lot of interesting characters. I played alongside 18 Hall of Famers and if Pete Rose ever gets in, that would be 19. I consider it a point of pride that, for the whole 11 years I played, I was able to call my own shots and was able to retire on my own terms,” he said.

Underscoring the idea of pursuing goals, Davidson never let Temple University stray far from his mind over all the years he spent in baseball. Each offseason, he returned to its Philadelphia campus to complete classes toward his bachelor’s degree — which ultimately took him 11 years to complete.

As far as any untold stories which he might not have had room to discuss in the book, Davidson demurred, saying “I kind of covered the bases, no pun intended.”

For those interested in purchasing “Dugouts, Icons and Dreams,” visit www.barnesandnoble.com or www.amazon.com.