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Ben Taylor

Position: Pitcher; First Baseman; Manager
Teams Include: Birmingham Giants, West Baden Sprudels, St. Louis Giants, New York Lincoln Giants, Chicago American Giants, Indianapolis ABCs, Hilldale Daisies, New York Bacharach Giants, Washington Potomacs, Harrisburg Giants, Baltimore Black Sox, Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, Washington Pilots, Brooklyn Eagles, Washington Black Senators, New York Cubans, 1910-1940

Ben Taylor was a slick-fielding, snappy-hitting consummate professional from a ball-playing family, a dependable figure at first base for many years (his nickname was "Old Reliable").

In Taylor's first 16 seasons, he hit over .300 15 times.
In Taylor's first 16 seasons, he
hit over .300 15 times.

However, his major claim to Negro baseball fame may be his tutelage of the green but talented Buck Leonard, helping make young Buck the greatest first sacker in blackball history -- and probably among the greatest ever to play there. Buck said, "I got most of my learning from Ben Taylor. He helped me when I first broke in with his team. He had been the best first baseman in Negro baseball up until that time, and he was the one who really taught me to play first base."

Benjamin Harrison Taylor (1888-1953) began his career as a left-handed pitcher for the Birmingham Giants in 1908, then sported a 22-3 record in '09. In 1911, he rang up 30-1 total against all comers. But it was decided he could help the team more as an everyday hitter and at first base, where he showed exceptional fielding skills. After Ben's .379 performance in 1912, Rube Foster signed the young man for his Chicago American Giants, where Taylor joined his brothers Jim and Johnny.

When the three brothers left Chicago in 1914 to join their fourth, C.I., on the Indianapolis ABCs, they were ready to make baseball history. The ABCs were owned by American Brewing Co. C.I. was a widely respected manager and teacher of the game. Ben was stationed at first, Brother "Candy Jim" held down third, and Johnny was a pitcher who had earned the nickname "Steel Arm."

During their time together there, some other notables-to-be joined their group, such as a 24-year-old Oscar Charleston and 22-year-old Dave Malarcher. Biz Mackey showed up a few years later.

These were the prime years of Ben's playing career. During his first season, he hit cleanup and batted .333; the second, he turned in a .308 average. Then he was off to Cuba for some winter ball between the 1915 and 1916 seasons and swatted an eye-popping .500. In the 1916 World Series, he cracked 11 hits in 18 trips to the plate. When the ball got lively, Ben took advantage: During his last three seasons with Indianapolis (1920-22), he tagged the ball at clips of .323, .407, and .358. During the last year, he was also the ABC manager, replacing C.I., who had died.

In 1923, Ben organized the Washington Potomacs, bringing brother Johnny along as pitching coach. The team joined the new Eastern Colored League in its second season the following year. He was a player-manager for Harrisburg in 1925 and Baltimore for the following three years. Later on, he gave young Buck Leonard valuable lessons in his first season of professional ball.

In a rare trade of managers, Taylor was swapped to the Bacharach Giants in exchange for Dick Lundy prior to the 1929 campaign. It would be the last season that Ben played the field, and accounts say that year he earned the highest salary in the game. He continued to coach and manage until 1940 and was selected for the Hall in 2006.

Here are Ben Taylor's Negro League statistics*:


*Note: Taylor's career statistics are incomplete.

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