Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Who was C. I. Taylor?

On this past January 28, 2012, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum had its Twelfth Legacy Awards ceremony.    The awards were given to Major League players and managers chosen by the museum for their outstanding performances during the 2011 season and other individuals recognized for outstanding achievement in baseball.   Each award is named after a baseball pioneer drawn from the archives of Negro League baseball.  The museum is in Kansas City where the first official Negro baseball league, the Negro National League, was formed in 1920.

One highlight of the evening was Texas Rangers’ Manager Ron Washington receiving the CI Taylor Award for American League Manager of the Year.  Washington has gained national attention by leading his team to winning the American League pennant the last two seasons.  But the award also brings deserved attention for whom it is named, CI Taylor. 

Who was CI Taylor?  Negro League baseball was criticized for having unstructured teams with undisciplined players.  Although some of the criticism was valid, it unfairly became a stereotype of all Negro League teams.  However, neither the criticism nor stereotype was true for Charles Isham (CI) Taylor.

Co-owner and manager of the Indianapolis ABC’s (1914 -1921), CI Taylor was a strict disciplinarian that had a dress code for his players.   The son of a Methodist minister, Taylor’s manner was different than most of his contemporaries, black or white.  He did not curse, nor rant and rave at his players. There was a sense of calm and composure about him rarely seen on a baseball field.  Described as being fair, honest, and patient; Taylor was well liked by his players.  CI taught them the fundamentals of the game and many went on to be managers themselves in Negro League baseball.  He was especially a mentor for his brother, Ben, and Oscar Charleston, both in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  

Most importantly, CI Taylor’s teams won.  His 1916 ABC team was the best black team in the midwest that year.

When the first official Negro League was formed in 1920, Taylor played a key role.  His team was a charter member of the Negro National League (NNL) and he was the league’s Vice-President.  Taylor’s unexpected death in 1921, at age 48 was a setback for Negro League baseball.   Without his leadership, the ABC’s disbanded after the 1923 season.

Who is your favorite manager from the archives of baseball history?