Ted Williams and Bob Feller are famous examples of baseball players who had their careers interrupted by extended periods of military service. Fortunately they were ultimately able to return and continue producing at high levels. Many other players have sacrificed baseball in order to serve their country, including Mike Davison.
Davison was a left-handed pitcher signed by the Baltimore Orioles in 1964 out of Minnesota, where he had attended Augsberg College. He was a starter and immediately showed the Orioles that they had signed an intriguing prospect. In 1964, his first season in the minors, he went 12-4 with a 3.10 ERA between two lower level teams. However, in the offseason, the Orioles made the difficult choice to leave him unprotected in the first year draft, and he was snatched up by the San Francisco Giants.
Davison’s 1965 season was spent pitching for Springfield in the Eastern League. Although his record was a putrid 9-18, he had a sparkling 2.84 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 203 innings. His future in baseball looked bright, but was unknown to him, was about to take a detour.
With the Vietnam War intensifying, Davison was drafted into military service and missed the next three baseball seasons. When he returned in 1969, the Giants decided to turn him from a starter into a closer. He had enough success at the transition that he was called up to appear in one game with the Giants. He pitched the final two innings of a 9-4 loss to the San Diego Padres on October 1st, the second to last game of the year, giving up a run, but also striking out Nate Colbert and Cito Gaston.
In 1970 Davison forced his way on to the San Francisco roster by proving he was too advanced to the minors. In the 15 games he did appear in at Triple-A, he had a tiny 0.90 ERA. That success did not translate to San Francisco. Davison pitched 31 games out of the bullpen, posting a 3-5 record, one save, and a 6.50 ERA. His Achilles heel were base runners, as he had a 1.89 WHIP.
Davison’s time in the major leagues ended following 1970. He pitched in the minors in 1971, first in the Giants’ system, and then with the Reds after being released. Sadly, injuries ended his career following that season and he never played professional baseball again.
Although the formative years of Davison’s development in baseball were interrupted by military service, it is just that he was still able to realize his goal of playing in the major leagues. It is impossible to say how his career would have been different if he had never lost those three years, but there is no real reason to speculate. He ended up making it, and that is more than most players can claim.
Mike Davison Questionnaire:
If you could do anything about your playing career differently, what would that be?: I wish I wouldn’t have shattered my rotator cuff.
What was the strangest play you ever saw on the baseball diamond?: A pitcher misjudging a soft line drive that broke his nose.
Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Cal Ripken, Sr.
Who talked the most on the field to annoy the opposing team?: Earl Weaver.
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