Tony Taylor loved baseball and loved being a Philadelphia Phillies player. That’s why the sound of his melodious name, Tony Taylor, always brings a smile to the face of many Phillies fans of a certain age.
Tony was our guy even though he wasn’t originally a Phillies player. He was obtained in a trade with the Chicago Cubs on this very date in 1960 along with catcher Cal Neeman in exchange for first baseman Ed Bouchee and pitcher Don Cardwell. He taught us about hard work – do your job and keep trying.
It’s time to remember him and shed some light on what kind of guy he is. There was a personal encounter that happened during the 1968 season. During a rain delay at Connie Mack Stadium, my best buddy Bob and I ended up in a room in the walkway en route to the Phillies dugout. There was a bunch of electrical equipment in there which we were told was basically a power source for the ballpark’s sound system.
We opened the door and much to our surprise, there was Tony Taylor, smoking a cigarette while reading a pamphlet. He did not display an ounce of shock or fear nor did he yell at us to get out. Rather, he welcomed us.
We told him we were big fans of his which brought a smile to his face. We patted him on the back. The feel of a Phillies uniform back then was something magical. It almost felt starchy.
He then began cracking up when Bob demonstrated Taylor’s batting stance. Taylor’s unique ritual was to touch his cap, and practice swinging underhand style with the bat while rocking back and forth. He did it three, four times. Laughing Tony said, “Good, you got me.”
Right about then a security guard came into the room to check on Tony and saw us. “Everything good, Tony?” he asked. Tony said that he was just talking to friends. Imagine that. The guy who Phillies announcer By Saam referred to as a pepper pot, Tony Taylor, called us “friends.“
The 11-year-old in me back in 1964 refused to accept the baseball term “tailor-made double play” unless Tony Taylor was involved in that play. I realized the error of my ways when Mets broadcaster Lindsey Nelson used the same description “tailor made” later in the 1964 season.
When reflecting on his career and asked of his biggest accomplishment with the Phillies, Taylor had no doubt. “Jim Bunning’s perfect game. I was very proud of him, and I made a play that made his perfect game possible.”
According to Newsday’s George Vecsey who covered the game: “Only one ball came close to being a hit. Jesse Gonder hit a line drive toward right field in the fifth inning. Second baseman Tony Taylor ran hard to his left, dove parallel to the ground and knocked the ball down. Then he threw out Gonder by two steps. “
When Gonder hit that ball, I thought it was a single. To see Taylor flying like Superman to stab it, it was an incredible play. Even the Mets fans cheered his effort. Taylor served two terms with the Phillies as a player and later a coach. By no means was the Cuban native a superstar. But he was our guy. He was dependable and lovable at the same time.
During his second stint with the Phillies in the mid-1970’s, Taylor would regularly get standing ovations when he would pinch-hit. He played in 1,669 of his career 2,195 big-league games while wearing a Phillies uniform. Taylor had 2,007 hits over his career with 1,511 coming with the Phillies while compiling an overall .261 career batting average. In 2002 he was elected to the Phillies Wall of Fame.
Taylor wore uniform numbers 8 and 12 while playing for the Phillies, but he was always No. 1 in our hearts. And he always will be.
God bless Tony Taylor.