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C.I. Taylor

Charles Isham Taylor
Nickname: C.I.

Career: 1904-1922
Positions: 2b, manager, officer (NNL)
Teams: Birmingham Giants (1904-1909), West Baden Sprudels (1910-1913), Indianapolis ABCs (1914-1921)
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 5' 11''   Weight: 175
Born: January 20, 1875, South Carolina
Died: Gebruary 23, 1922, Indianapolis, Indiana

Acknowledged along with Rube Foster as one of the two greatest managers of all time, contemporaries said that C.I. trained the players and Rube signed them. On the field, the master builder from Carolina was a strict disciplinarian and a great teacher who brought out the best in his players. At times he would put on a show for the fans by "clowning" in the third-base coaching box by eating grass or jumping up and down and yelling about a pitcher's fastball offerings. His crowd-pleasing comedic antics contrasted with his off-field behavior, where C.I., the son of a Methodist minister, was a perfect gentleman and demonstrated exemplary character. He was civic-minded and as a member of the Masonic Lodge, he held the honor of being a thirty-third-degree Mason.

After attending Clark College in Atlanta and serving in the Spanish-American War, he began his nineteen-year managerial career in 1940 with the Birmingham Giants, where he was a player-manager. After five seasons in the South's steel center, he moved the team North to West Baden, Indiana, where he played second base and managed the West Baden Sprudels in 1910. In 1914 he again transferred the team, this time to Indianapolis, where the club was sponsored by the American Brewing Company and called the ABCs. Immediately his baseball acumen was evident as he built and nurtured a team that was recognized as a perennial power.

His greatest success came in 1916 when, featuring such stalwarts as Oscar Charleston, Ben Taylor, Bingo DeMoss, and Dizzy Dismukes, the ABC's captured the western championship by defeating Rube Foster's Chicago American Giants. The previous year, the ABCs had lost a hard-fought championship series to the American Giants. Although well past his prime, Taylor still made an occasional appearance, primarily as a pinch hitter, and had a composite .200 batting average for the 1915-1916 teams. After having fought their way to the top, the ABCs were decimated by the draft in World War I, losing seven men to military service. Taylor, a patriotic veteran of the Spanish-American War, took his draftees to Washington, D.C., and showed them the buildings in the country's seat of government.

Always a proud man, he was equally proud of his team, and under his management the ABCs always fielded a classy ballclub. His teams traveled first-class and were dressed well on the field. He maintained his composure with umpires, even when he thought they were wrong. On one occasion, after being barraged by bad calls from an umpire, he called for a time-out and walked out to the offending umpire and said, "If I were a cursing man, I would curse you," then turned and walked back to the bench.

When the Negro National League was formed in 1920, the ABCs were charter members and C.I. was installed as the league's vice president, serving in that capacity until his death in 1922. In reinforcing his roster for the initial season of league competition, he signed half a dozen players from the San Antonio Black Aces, including Biz Mackey and Henry Blackman.

Taylor knew how to handle men, and under his tutelege the ABCs played winning baseball during the first two seasons in the league. But Taylor's brilliant career was abruptly terminated when he died at the relatively young age of 47. Even after his untimely death, his presence remained in evidence through the players he had schooled in the finer points of baseball-players whose characters were shaped in the Taylor kiln and who bore the indelible imprint of the C.I. Taylor philosophy of baseball.

Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.