Ben Taylor

Ben Taylor

Benjamin Harrison Taylor

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 6' 1", Weight 190 lb.
  • Debut 1910
  • Final Game 1938
  • Born July 1, 1888 in Anderson, SC USA
  • Died January 24, 1953 in Baltimore, MD USA

Generally considered to be the premier Negro League first baseman of the first quarter of the twentieth century, Ben Taylor is usually ranked behind only the great Buck Leonard among black players who manned the position prior to the integration of the game. Taylor spent 20 years in black baseball, splitting his time between 11 different teams as he carved out his Hall of Fame career.

Born in Anderson, South Carolina on July 1, 1888, Benjamin Harrison Taylor was the youngest of four baseball brothers that also included famed Negro League manager C.I. Taylor, Candy Jim Taylor, and Steel Arm Johnny Taylor. After initiating his playing career as a pitcher for the Birmingham Giants in 1908, Taylor moved to first base, where he experienced a considerable amount of success with the St. Louis Giants, New York Lincoln Giants, and Chicago American Giants over the next six years.

However, Taylor's greatest years were spent playing for his brother, C.I. Taylor, as a member of the Indianapolis ABCs from 1914 to 1922. A standout on Indianapolis's 1916 championship team, Taylor excelled during the Negro League World Series, going 11-for-18 and stealing three bases during the five-game Series. A lefthander both in the field and at the plate, Taylor was outstanding in all aspects of the game. A scientific hitter with no real weakness at the plate, he was known for his ability to hit line drives to all fields, and also for his proficiency at executing the hit-and-run play.

Taylor batted over .300 in all but one of his first 16 seasons, and he compiled a lifetime batting average of .333 during his Negro League career. Taylor also excelled in the field, making all the routine plays, gobbling up ground balls hit in his direction, and making the other infielders on his team look good by scooping up low throws and making difficult plays with such ease that they appeared routine. An extremely cerebral player as well, Taylor took over the managerial duties in Indianapolis in his final year with the team, replacing his brother in the wake of his death. After leaving the ABCs, Taylor organized the Washington Potomacs in 1923, bringing along his brother Johnny as the team's pitching coach. The team joined the new Eastern Colored League in its inaugural season the following year. Ben continued as a player/manager, joining Harrisburg in 1925 and the Baltimore Black Sox from 1926 to 1928. He was then traded to the Bacharach Giants in exchange for their manager Dick Lundy prior to the 1929 campaign, the last season of his playing career.

He continued to coach and manage until 1940, teaching young players the finer points of the game. It was from Taylor that Buck Leonard learned to polish and refine his skills as a first baseman. Following his retirement, Taylor was an active businessman until he passed away in Baltimore, Maryland in 1952, at age 64. That very same year, the Pittsburgh Courier polled its readers to name the greatest players of the Negro Leagues. Taylor was selected as the Second-Team first baseman, finishing second in the balloting to his earlier pupil, Buck Leonard. Not everyone agreed, though, since Negro League legend Oscar Charleston chose Taylor as the first baseman on his all-time All-Star Team. Taylor was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 2006.

By Bob_Cohen

2006 Hall of Fame, Ben Taylor, Negro League


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