Archive for the ‘Hitters’ Category

Before he became a reliable reliever for the 1964 World Series champion Cardinals, Ron Taylor began his big-league career as a starting pitcher for the Indians. His debut was remarkable.

On April 11, 1962, the first time he played in a major-league game, Taylor got the start against the Red Sox at Boston’s Fenway Park, pitched 11 shutout innings and lost when he gave up a walkoff grand slam to Carroll Hardy in the 12th.

Taylor’s counterpart, Red Sox starter Bill Monbouquette, pitched 12 shutout innings and yielded four hits, two to Taylor. The Indians produced one hit, Taylor’s single in the sixth, in the first nine innings.

Smart prospect

Born and raised in Toronto, Taylor was signed by the Indians as a teen and spent six seasons (1956-61) in their farm system. During the winters, he attended the University of Toronto and in 1961 he received a degree in electrical engineering.

At spring training in 1962, Taylor, 24, was the Indians’ best pitcher in exhibition games, The Sporting News reported. The right-hander yielded one earned run in 15 innings and was chosen by manager Mel McGaha to start the second game of the regular season.

“He’s got brains and that isn’t going to hurt him any,” McGaha said.

Multiple talents

The Red Sox opened the season with a surprise choice, Carroll Hardy, as their right fielder. Described by the Boston Globe as a ‘chisel-chinned outfielder” and by the New York Times as having a “square Dick Tracy jaw,” Hardy had been a backup during his time in the big leagues.

An accomplished athlete from Sturgis, South Dakota, Hardy had a tryout with the baseball Cardinals after he graduated from high school and got a contract offer from them, according to the Society for American Baseball Research, but chose to attend the University of Colorado.

Hardy excelled in baseball, football and track. A halfback who averaged 6.8 yards per carry for Colorado, Hardy was chosen by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round of the 1955 NFL draft.

Opting to try both pro baseball and pro football in 1955, Hardy played in the Indians’ farm system and for the 49ers. An effective receiver out of the backfield, Hardy had 12 receptions, including four for touchdowns on passes from Y.A. Tittle. Hardy had a 78-yard touchdown reception against the Detroit Lions and made two touchdown catches in a game versus the Green Bay Packers.

After two years in the Army, Hardy opted to focus on baseball. A right-handed batter, he reached the majors with the Indians in 1958. Hardy’s first big-league home run, a walkoff three-run shot versus Billy Pierce of the White Sox, came when he batted for Roger Maris in the 11th inning. Boxscore

Hardy was traded to the Red Sox in June 1960.

Three months later, in the first inning of a game at Baltimore, Red Sox icon Ted Williams swung at a knuckleball from the Orioles’ Hal Brown and hit the ball straight down into his right foot. Williams suffered a severely bruised ankle, couldn’t put weight on his foot and had to leave the game. Hardy replaced him and thus became the only player to bat for Williams in a big-league game.

With the count 0-and-1, a runner on first and one out, Hardy bunted at the first pitch he saw from Brown and popped up to the pitcher. Brown snared the ball and threw to first in time to catch the runner off base for a double play. Boxscore

A year later, Hardy batted for another future Hall of Famer, Carl Yastrzemski, in the eighth inning of a game against the Yankees and bunted for a single versus closer Luis Arroyo. Boxscore

Goose eggs

In 1962, Hardy, 28, had two hits on Opening Day, but Dick Donovan shut out the Red Sox in a 4-0 Indians victory. Boxscore

The next day, Hardy was back in the starting lineup to oppose Ron Taylor in his debut.

The game became a duel between starting pitchers Taylor and Monbouquette.

Taylor broke up Monbouquette’s no-hit bid by poking an outside fastball to right for a single to lead off the sixth. The pitch “hit close to the end of his bat,” Monbouqette told the Boston Globe.

Monbouquette didn’t allow another hit until the 10th. In the 11th, Taylor singled to center with one out but was stranded.

When the Red Sox failed to score in the bottom half of the 11th, it extended to 20 their stretch of scoreless innings to start the season.

Mistake pitch

Yastrzemski led off the bottom of the 12th with a drive to deep center. “I thought I might have an inside-the-park homer,” Yastrzemski told the Boston Globe. “In fact, I thought the ball was going into the bleachers.”

The wind kept the ball in the park and center fielder Ty Cline got a glove on it but couldn’t make a catch. Yastrzemski reached third with a triple.

Looking to set up a forceout or induce a grounder for a double play, Taylor gave intentional walks to Frank Malzone and Russ Nixon, loading the bases with none out for Hardy.

“I was just hoping to hit a sacrifice fly,” Hardy said. “I figured Taylor was going to try to get me to hit the ball on the ground. I was looking for a low breaking ball away from the plate.”

Said Taylor: “I was trying to throw him a slider low and away.”

The pitch was belt high. Hardy swung and lofted the ball to left. It landed a foot over the wall for a grand slam and a 4-0 Red Sox triumph. Boxscore

The home run, the first for Hardy at Fenway Park since he joined the Red Sox two years earlier, “was covered with jewels and gold dust,’ wrote Harold Kaese in the Boston Globe.

Second careers

Taylor was 2-2 in eight appearances for the 1962 Indians before he was returned to the minors in May. After the season, the Indians traded Taylor to the Cardinals, who used him primarily in relief. Taylor had nine wins and 11 saves for the Cardinals in 1963, and eight wins and eight saves in 1964. He also got the save in Game 4 of the 1964 World Series. Boxscore

Taylor enrolled in medical school after his playing career, graduated in 1977 and became the team physician of the Blue Jays in 1979.

Hardy hit .215 with eight home runs for the 1962 Red Sox and was traded after the season to Houston.

After baseball, Hardy joined the front office of football’s Denver Broncos. In almost 25 years with them, Hardy served several roles, including director of scouting, director of player personnel and assistant general manager. Hardy died Aug. 9, 2020, at 87.

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It didn’t take long for a Kentucky jury to determine a couple of Cardinals accused of doing wrong did right.

Thirty years ago, on Aug. 27, 1990, Cardinals pitcher Frank DiPino and catcher Tom Pagnozzi were found not guilty of misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct. The jury of three women and three men deliberated for 30 minutes before returning the verdicts.

Earlier in the day, a charge of disorderly conduct against Cardinals pitcher Greg Mathews was dismissed by the judge before the trial began.

DiPino, Pagnozzi and Mathews were arrested on May 19, 1990, in Covington, Ky., across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, during a late-night altercation at a gas station.

The players said they were trying to help a woman who was assaulted, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Trouble in river city

The Cardinals were in Cincinnati in May 1990 to play a four-game series with the Reds at Riverfront Stadium.

On May 18, a Friday night, Mathews was the Cardinals’ starter and pitched eight scoreless innings, but the Reds won, 1-0, on Paul O’Neill’s home run versus Ken Dayley with two outs in the ninth. Boxscore

After the game, Mathews, DiPino and Pagnozzi went to The Waterfront, a floating restaurant tied to moorings at Pete Rose Pier in Covington. The high-end steak and seafood place had stunning views of the Cincinnati skyline, a lively bar scene and a 1980s “Miami Vice” vibe.

Late in the evening, Stacey Winn, 23, of Cincinnati and two friends offered to drive the three players from the restaurant to the team hotel, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

At about 2:30 a.m., they stopped at a Covington gas station. Winn got out of the vehicle and was near the restroom when she said a man approached, made a suggestive remark and shoved her to the ground, The Cincinnati Post reported.

Defense attorneys identified the man as an off-duty police officer from nearby Dayton, Ky.

DiPino and Pagnozzi saw what happened, and ran over to help Winn and confront the man.

Winn testified the man punched DiPino, the Associated Press reported. DiPino and Pagnozzi fought back.

Covington police officers arrived, said they saw DiPino and Pagnozzi throwing punches and arrested them, the Post-Dispatch reported. The man who Winn said assaulted her was not arrested.

DiPino and Pagnozzi were handcuffed and put into the back seat of a police car. Mathews was arrested when he opened the back door of the police car.

The three players were taken to jail and released on bail.

That night, Saturday, May 19, DiPino pitched in the Cardinals’ game versus the Reds, facing three batters in relief of starter John Tudor. Boxscore

The next afternoon, Sunday, May 20, Pagnozzi caught in the series finale and drove in the go-ahead run for the Cardinals in the seventh inning of a 6-2 victory. Boxscore

Law and order

A trial date in Kenton County district court was scheduled for Monday, Aug. 27, 1990, a scheduled off-day in Cincinnati for the Cardinals before they opened a two-game series with the Reds.

Prosecutor John Fortner offered DiPino, Pagnozzi and Mathews a plea agreement, but they rejected it, preferring a jury trial, the Post-Dispatch reported.

“We brought this to trial so the jury could find out that what we did was correct,” DiPino told the Associated Press. “I just reacted as I thought any man should. If I saw the same thing happening again, I’m sure I’d run over there again.”

If found guilty, each player faced a maximum of 90 days in jail and a fine of $250.

On the eve of the trial, Pagnozzi said to the Post-Dispatch, “Manager Joe Torre told me I’m catching Tuesday (Aug. 28) if I’m not in jail.”

Justice served

On the morning of the trial, Judge Steven Jaeger dismissed the charge against Mathews. The judge said Mathews shouldn’t have been charged with disorderly conduct for opening the door of the police car because his teammates were handcuffed and Mathews’ action didn’t pose a threat, the Post-Dispatch reported.

During the trial, none of the players testified. Nor did the alleged assailant, who had been suspended by the Dayton, Ky., police department, The Cincinnati Post reported.

Defense attorney James Kidney of Newport, Ky., relied on the testimony of Stacey Winn to convince the jury the players came to her rescue and then defended themselves against the man who assaulted her.

After the jury returned its verdicts, Pagnozzi told the Associated Press, “We believed we were not guilty the whole time. I tried to do the right thing. We felt we did do the right thing.”

DiPino told the Post-Dispatch, “We believe what we did was right and we stuck to our guns.”

One of the women jurors, Pat Perry, told The Cincinnati Post, “We just did not feel they started it. They were only helping the girl. We all hoped if we were in the same position they would come to our aid.”

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Cardinals cleanup hitter Pedro Guerrero resorted to using his hands, not his bat, to connect against Astros pitcher Danny Darwin.

Thirty years ago, on Aug. 16, 1990, during a game between the Astros and Cardinals at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis, Guerrero got upset with Darwin for throwing a pitch too close to him.

When Darwin reached first base on a single, he and Guerrero argued and Guerrero struck him.

Feeling frustrated

With the Astros ahead, 3-1, in the sixth inning, the Cardinals had runners on second and third, two outs, and Guerrero at the plate. Darwin threw a fastball that was “head high, but looked to be over the inside corner of the plate,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Guerrero said he thought the pitch was intended to hit him, but plate umpire Mark Hirschbeck told the Post-Dispatch, “It was not even close.”

After Guerrero struck out, stranding the runners, he glared at Darwin. “He was just looking to start something,” Hirschbeck said. “He was yelling, ‘I’m going to get you.’ ”

Said Darwin: “I don’t appreciate the look he gave me.”

Sticks and stones

The hard feelings carried over to the next inning.

With two outs and none on in the seventh, Darwin singled versus reliever Scott Terry. Standing at first base, Darwin and Guerrero jabbered at one another.

According to Guerrero, “When he got to first base, I said, ‘Hey, man, what’s wrong? Can’t anybody look at you?’ ”

According to Darwin, “When I got to first base, Guerrero said, ‘What’s your problem?’ I said, ‘What’s my problem? You mean I can’t pitch inside?’ He said, ‘I know you’re going to pitch inside.’ I said, ‘Then why’d you give me that look?’ ”

Guerrero said Darwin “pointed a finger in my face” and started cussing at him. Umpire Bob Davidson said both players were cussing at one another.

Davidson stepped between the two, but Guerrero reached around and hit Darwin, the Post-Dispatch reported. Video at 4:28 mark

Both benches emptied. Guerrero and Darwin were ejected, and Astros manager Art Howe also was tossed for arguing with the umpires.

In a corridor leading to the clubhouse, Guerrero and Astros coach Ed Ott shouted at each another before police arrived and separated them, the Post-Dispatch reported. Boxscore

Guerrero said he offered to fight Darwin anywhere he wanted to meet. “I’m not afraid of anybody,” Guerrero said.

Darwin said, “He’s a cheap-shot artist. I think he’s gutless. If he thinks he can intimidate me, he’s crazy. I’ve hit guys a lot meaner than him.”

Play ball

In remarks to Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon, Guerrero said Astros pitchers threw at him in a series at Houston, and he needed to put a stop to it when Darwin pitched him high and tight at St. Louis.

Guerrero may have been brushed back by the 1990 Astros but he wasn’t hit. Guerrero got plunked once in 1990 and it happened in September when he was struck on the right forearm by a pitch from the Phillies’ Jose DeJesus.

On Aug. 26, 1990, 10 days after his altercation with Guerrero, Darwin again started against the Cardinals at Houston and got a complete-game win. Guerrero wasn’t there for a rematch. He was on the disabled list because of a strained lower back. Boxscore

Guerrero batted .333 (8-for-24) versus Darwin in his career and never was hit by a pitch from him.

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A helicopter ride late on a winter night gave Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver a closer look at a mountain than he would have cared to experience.

The helicopter carrying McCarver in January 1968 veered in time to avoid a collision with Big Savage Mountain, about 20 miles west of Cumberland, Maryland, near the Pennsylvania border.

Four years earlier, the mountain was the site of a deadly crash involving a massive military aircraft carrying two nuclear bombs.

Air disaster

On Jan. 13, 1964, a U.S. Strategic Air Command B-52 left an Air Force base in Massachusetts and headed to its home station near Albany, Ga. The eight-engine plane had a five-person crew and carried two 24-megaton nuclear bombs.

At about 2 a.m., the B-52 flew into a snowstorm near Big Savage Mountain and experienced severe turbulence. The violent shaking caused the plane’s vertical stabilizer to break off and the aircraft became uncontrollable. The pilot, Major Thomas McCormick, ordered the crew to bail out into the blizzard.

The B-52, the biggest plane in the Strategic Air Command, crashed near the base of Big Savage Mountain on its western slope.

The two nuclear bombs onboard were unarmed, meaning safety mechanisms prevented the weapons from exploding. An unarmed nuclear bomb is designed not to explode until a crew member activates it, an Air Force spokesman told the Associated Press. The bombs were found intact in the wreckage, the Cumberland Evening Times reported.

Two of the crewmen survived. Three didn’t. Snow drifts were waist high, the Associated Press reported, and the temperature was at or below zero.

Major McCormick parachuted safely to the ground. “It was real rugged where I came down and the snow was several feet deep,” he told the Cumberland News.

After daybreak, Major McCormick trekked several miles, found his way to a farmhouse near Grantsville, Maryland, and called authorities to report the crash.

Rescuers found the co-pilot, Captain Parker Peeden, who survived by using his parachute to provide a shelter, the Cumberland Evening Times reported.

Two other crewmen, Major Robert Payne, the navigator, and Sergeant Melvin Wooten, the tail gunner, parachuted to the ground but died of exposure. Major Robert Townley, the radar bombardier, didn’t eject and was killed in the crash.

Catcher in the wry

Four years later, Tim McCarver was in Cumberland, Maryland, to speak at its Dapper Dan Club dinner. The Dapper Dan Club, founded and operated by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports editor Al Abrams, raised funds for charities in Pittsburgh and other towns. Proceeds from the Cumberland dinner benefited the Allegany County League for Crippled Children.

McCarver was a prize catch for the dinner at St. Mary’s Church hall on Sunday night, Jan. 21, 1968. Glib and personable, he was the catcher for the Cardinals, who three months earlier had won the World Series championship. His appearance helped draw a sellout crowd of 700 to the Dapper Dan banquet.

After McCarver agreed to be the guest speaker, he learned he needed to be in St. Louis by noon on Monday Jan. 22, the day after the dinner, for Army reserve duty. Abrams arranged for a private helicopter to take McCarver from Cumberland to Pittsburgh immediately after the banquet to catch a flight to St. Louis.

Tight schedule

Others on the dais included Orioles pitcher Pete Richert, retired big-league players Dick Groat and Jerry Lynch, University of Maryland head football coach Bob Ward and West Virginia University head football coach Jim Carlen. Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince was toastmaster.

The dinner started at 6 p.m. and McCarver was a hit with the audience. In his remarks, McCarver made special mention of Groat, the shortstop who was his Cardinals teammate from 1963-65. “Dick taught me how to conduct myself both on and off the field,” McCarver said. “I learned a lot of baseball from him.”

When the dinner ended at 9:40 p.m., McCarver, Abrams and Prince left immediately for the helicopter ride to Pittsburgh.

“That wasn’t soon enough,” the Cumberland Evening Times reported. “The weather won the race.”

Sharp turn

The helicopter had been airborne for about five minutes when “a huge mountain, completely shrouded by dark clouds, loomed ahead,” Abrams reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Big Savage Mountain, 2,986 feet at its peak, barely was visible in the icy fog.

Listening to a warning from air traffic control crackle into his earphones, pilot Dick Jarrard “suddenly made a 180-degree turn” and headed back to the Cumberland airport, Abrams reported.

“Don’t worry, men” Jarrard told his passengers. “I received orders to turn back. It’s too soupy here. That big, black blotch you saw ahead of us was Big Savage Mountain. I didn’t want to put a dent in it.”

Jarrard later told them, “The weather ahead was socking in fast.”

Abrams recalled, “By the time the helicopter touched the cold, cold ground, Tim McCarver’s face had turned ashen white.”

According to Abrams, McCarver said to no one in particular, “Let me out of here. You guys can ride this thing, not me.”

Four days earlier, McCarver and his wife Ann had become parents for the second time when Ann gave birth to a girl, Kelly.

A private plane was chartered to take McCarver from Cumberland to Washington, D.C., where he got a flight to St. Louis in time to report for military reserve duty the next day.

Abrams, Prince and the pilot stayed overnight in Cumberland and flew in the helicopter to Pittsburgh the next morning.

Years later, recalling the helicopter adventure, McCarver told Abrams, “I’ll never forget that ride.”

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As a baseball innovator, Cardinals outfielder Charlie James was about 60 years ahead of his time.

In 1961, while pursuing a degree in electrical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis during the Cardinals’ off-season, James devised an electronic system for calling balls and strikes.

James presented his plan for an electronic umpire in a 21-page special projects paper he submitted as part of his studies.

Though James said he was certain his plan was doable and would be accurate, Major League Baseball hardly was ready for such an innovation in the 1960s.

More than half a century later, a modernized version of the system James envisioned was on the verge of being accepted.

Major League Baseball began experimenting with a computerized strike zone in 2019 in the Atlantic League, an independent minor league, ESPN.com reported. Plate umpires wore earpieces connected to a phone that relayed ball-and-strike calls from a camera system. It also was used in the 2019 Arizona Fall League.

After more testing, it was expected a computerized strike zone eventually would be implemented in major-league games.

Multiple talents

A St. Louis native, James was a football and baseball standout at Webster Groves High School. The University of Missouri recruited him to play both sports and he enrolled as an electrical engineering major.

As a sophomore, his first varsity season at Missouri, James was a halfback in football and an outfielder in baseball. He led the 1956 football team, coached by Don Faurot, in receptions (30) and receiving yards (362), and also rushed for 283 yards on 62 carries. In baseball, he batted better than .300 and drew the attention of big-league scouts.

In a practice session before his junior football season, James suffered a leg injury and spent a week in a hospital. Though he recovered in time to play for the 1957 team, coached by Frank Broyles, James was limited. He led the 1957 team in receptions (12) and receiving yards (132), and rushed for 58 yards on 18 carries, but the preseason injury was a wake-up call.

Concerned he could suffer more football injuries, James decided to pursue the money being offered in baseball. Besides, if he stayed at Missouri, he’d be playing for his third head football coach in three years. Broyles had departed for Arkansas and Dan Devine was hired to replace him.

On Jan. 6, 1958, James, 20, signed with the Cardinals, accepting a $15,000 bonus, and gave up his last two seasons of college baseball as well as a final season of football.

“I’m glad I played football because it helps toughen you, mentally even more than physically, for disappointments and setbacks,” James told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I owe a lot to it and to Missouri.”

Advanced technology

The Cardinals assigned James to their farm system in 1958. Determined to earn a college degree, James enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis and planned to attend classes in the fall and winter.

In August 1960, James made his major-league debut with the Cardinals. He was back at school after the season and zeroed in on completing work for his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

Before reporting to Cardinals spring training in 1961, James finished his paper in which he outlined how an automated baseball strike zone would work.

“It’s based on electric circuits and I can assure you it’s trigonometrically possible,” James told the New York Times.

James said his idea was based on “placing three lines flush on the ground between home plate and the pitcher’s mound.”

He drew for New York Times columnist Arthur Daley three parallel lines with circles at either end. “They radiate upward and a mathematical formula can predict anything that moves in a parabolic path,” James explained.

James told the Post-Dispatch the three detectors in the ground registered “both the horizontal and the vertical path of the ball.”

He said a metering device would adjust the strike zone for the height of each batter.

Human element

James’ plan existed only on paper, the Post-Dispatch noted, but “is proved by calculus and theorems to be a practical device, scientifically.”

The electronic umpire had “an infallible eye, but, alas, no heart,” the Post-Dispatch concluded.

James said his device wasn’t intended to replace umpires. He envisioned a plate umpire would remain crouched behind the catcher and would be needed for “calling plays at the plate, determining foul balls, determining check swings and keeping order.”

The goal, James said, is not to eliminate the plate umpire “but rather to improve on his judgment in calling pitches.”

The New York Times concluded, “It can’t automate umpires out of existence, but it will be accurate.”

Others had tried automated strike zones, James told the Post-Dispatch, but had failed.

“An Ohio outfit manufactured a robot that was placed behind the pitcher and didn’t have the good sense to get out of the way on a hit back to the mound,” James said.

At Dodgers training camp in 1950, General Electric introduced an electric eye, “but it sat right on top of the plate and a batter could trigger it, making a ball out of a strike with a wide swing of his bat,” James said.

Career growth

James was a reserve outfielder for the Cardinals from 1961-63, though he played a lot in 1962 after Minnie Minoso was injured. James hit a grand slam versus Sandy Koufax in 1962.

After he earned his bachelor’s degree, James pursued a master’s in electrical engineering at Washington University. While working on the master’s, which he obtained, James also was an instructor in electrical engineering at the school in the baseball off-seasons.

“Being an instructor forces you to keep up with things,” James said. “I handle four lab sections, with 15 to 20 students in each section. It takes a lot of preparation for each session, and so does the grading. It becomes a 40-hour week, easily.”

After Stan Musial retired, the Cardinals chose James to replace him. James was the Opening Day left fielder for the 1964 Cardinals, but hit .238 in April and .254 in May. In June, the Cardinals acquired Lou Brock from the Cubs and he took over in left for James.

James remained as a backup outfielder for the 1964 Cardinals, who became World Series champions. Afterward, James was traded to the Reds. In April 1966, James, 28, quit baseball because he said he needed to secure his family’s financial future. He became a successful business executive and eventually president of Central Electric, a Missouri company that manufactured electrical power equipment for industries.

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Tony Taylor played his first and last games in the major leagues at St. Louis against the Cardinals. In between, he had two splendid series against them, one in 1960 and the other in 1970.

An infielder who had 2,007 hits in 19 seasons in the big leagues, Taylor died July 16, 2020, at 84. He primarily played for the Phillies, but entered the majors with the Cubs and was mentored by the former Cardinals standout, Rogers Hornsby.

Late in Taylor’s career, the Cardinals tried to acquire him, but he opted to return to the Phillies.

Deep in Dixie

Born and raised in Cuba, Taylor liked to study chemistry in school. “If I didn’t go into baseball, I would have become a chemist for a sugar company,” he told The Sporting News.

A friend, Felix Gomez, had played for Texas City, an independent club in the minor leagues, and persuaded Taylor to start a pro baseball career there. Taylor was 18 when he signed with Texas City in 1954. During the season, the franchise was shifted to Thibodaux, La.

On the field, Taylor thrived, playing third base and batting .314, but “off the field, he was confused, anxious and lonely,” The Sporting News reported.

“I was so homesick,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he would have quit during the season, but lacked the money for a plane ticket to Cuba.

The Giants bought his contract after the 1954 season and he spent the next three years (1955-57) in their farm system.

Success at St. Louis

In December 1957, the Cubs chose Taylor in the minor-league draft and he went to spring training in 1958 as a candidate for the third base job. At training camp, Cubs manager Bob Scheffing was impressed with Taylor’s fielding range and moved him to second base, even though Taylor never had played the position. “He’ll get a lot of balls nobody else would reach,” Scheffing said.

Two of the Cubs’ coaches, Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby and George Myatt, were former big-league second basemen and they helped Taylor make the transition from third base, The Sporting News reported.

As Opening Day neared, the Chicago Tribune reported Taylor “has done slick work at second, ” but added he “has become a controversial figure in camp. There are those who believe he can’t miss but others rate him lacking in big-league ability.”

Scheffing’s confidence in Taylor never wavered. On April 15, 1958, when the Cubs opened the season at St. Louis, Taylor was the second baseman and batted in the leadoff spot. In his first at-bat in the majors, Taylor opened the game with a double against Vinegar Bend Mizell and went on to score, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead in a game they won, 4-0. Boxscore

In 1960, Taylor was 8-for-14 for the Cubs in a three-game series at St. Louis. Taylor capped the weekend by going 4-for-5 with three RBI in the series finale in what the Chicago Tribune called “a Taylor-made victory” for the Cubs. Boxscore

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch described Taylor as “the quiet man with the loud bat.”

A right-handed batter, Taylor had a powerful build on a 5-foot-9 frame. Rogers Hornsby, who had become a Cubs batting instructor, told The Sporting News he believed Taylor would be a .300 hitter. “If he ever learns to stride into the the ball and pull it,” Hornsby added, “he’ll be a home run slugger.”

Two weeks after his big St, Louis series, Taylor was traded to the Phillies.

Popular with Phillies

Taylor became a Phillies favorite. In 1963, he led National League second basemen in fielding percentage, produced 180 hits and scored 102 runs. Taylor six times had 20 or more stolen bases in a season.

Taylor was the Phillies’ second baseman from 1960-65, moved to a utility role in 1966-67 when Cookie Rojas became the starter, and took over at third base in 1968-69.

In 1970, the Phillies moved Don Money from shortstop to third base and went with rookies Denny Doyle at second and Larry Bowa at shortstop. Taylor, 34, opened the season in left field, but returned to second base when Doyle slumped.

Taylor time

On May 21, 1970, Philadelphia was abuzz with anticipation when the Cardinals opened a four-game series with the Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium. Slugger Richie Allen was playing in Philadelphia for the first time since being traded by the Phillies to the Cardinals.

In the Thursday night series opener, the focus was on Allen, but Taylor, his former road roommate, stole the show.

Cardinals starter Steve Carlton struck out 16 batters in eight innings, but the Phillies led, 3-0, entering the ninth. The Cardinals came back with three runs in the top of the ninth, including two on a home run by Allen, tying the score.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies had runners on first and second, two outs, when Taylor came to the plate. “He was the right guy in the right spot,” Phillies manager Frank Lucchesi told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Facing reliever Sal Campisi, Taylor told the Philadelphia Daily News, “I try to hit the ball up the middle in a spot like that. I was looking for a strike, a ball I could handle.”

Taylor grounded a single into center field, scoring John Briggs from second and giving the Phillies a 4-3 walkoff victory. Boxscore

Cardinals catcher Bart Zeller, making his big-league debut, told the Post-Dispatch, “Taylor hit a slider up, and we were trying to keep it away, but it got the middle of the plate.”

Tribute for Taylor

The next night, Taylor moved to third base to replace Don Money, who was injured in the series opener when a ball he was about to field struck him in the right eye. Taylor had two hits, scored a run and swiped a base, but the Cardinals won, 6-3. Boxscore

Game 3 of the series was Tony Taylor Night in Philadelphia and he was honored in ceremonies before the game. Standing at home plate with family, including his mother, who arrived from Cuba in March, Taylor was presented with gifts, including a trip to Spain for he and his wife.

Unfazed by the show of affection for Taylor, Bob Gibson struck him out three times in the game and finished with 16 in a 3-1 victory. Taylor did get one of the four hits Gibson allowed. Richie Allen drove in all the Cardinals’ runs with a pair of home runs versus Jim Bunning. Boxscore

The series finale on Sunday afternoon gave Taylor the chance to produce another game-winning hit, and he delivered.

In the 10th inning, with the score tied at 5-5, the Phillies loaded the bases with none out before Taylor lined a single to right on a fastball from Chuck Taylor, scoring Grant Jackson from third and giving the Phillies a 6-5 walkoff triumph. Richie Allen struck out five times in the game. Boxscore

Taylor finished the season with a .301 batting mark. He hit .411 with runners in scoring position.

Tony the Tiger

The Phillies traded Taylor to the Tigers in June 1971. He made the only postseason appearance of his career with them in 1972.

Released by the Tigers in December 1973, Taylor, 38, was pursued by the Cardinals, who wanted him for a utility role, United Press International reported, but he returned to the Phillies and played three more seasons for them.

On Sept. 29, 1976, Taylor ended his major-league playing career where it began, at St. Louis. Batting for pitcher Tug McGraw, Taylor grounded out to second versus John Curtis. Boxscore

Taylor went on to manage in the Phillies’ farm system for five seasons, coached for the Phillies and Marlins and was an instructor for the Giants.

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