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"Steel Arm Johnny" Taylor

Jonathan Boyce Taylor
Nickname: John, Steel Arm Johnny

Career: 1903-1925
Positions: p, manager, coach
Teams: Birmingham Giants (1903-1909), St. Paul Gophers (1909), Chicago Giants (1910), West Baden Sprudels (1910, 1913), St. Louis Giants (1911), New York Lincoln Giants (1912), Chicago American Giants (1913), Indianapolis ABCs (1914, 1916, 1920), Louisville Sox (1915), Bowser's ABCs (1916), Hilldale Daisies (1917), Bacharach Giants (1919), Washington Potomacs (1924)
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 5' 10''   Weight: 170
Born: 1879, Anderson, South Carolina

The second-oldest of the five famous members of the Taylor clan, he began his baseball career early in life, but pitched his first games of any note in the spring of 1898, when he pitched for Biddle University of Charlotte, North Carolina, against Shaw University at Latta Park, his home field. A sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer, a white daily newspaper, was so impressed with his exceptional speed that he dubbed Taylor "Steel Arm Johnny." After school was out for the summer, he played with two teams in South Carolina, first for two months with the Greenwood Red Stockings, and the remainder of the season with Greenville. The next two seasons, 1899-1900, he pitched for his hometown team, Anderson, South Carolina, winning 90 percent of his games.

In 1903 he journeyed to Alabama, joining the Birmingham Giants, managed by his older brother C.I. Taylor. During the next six years John always pitched thirty to forty games a season and never lost more than 7 games in any year. Taylor could also hit the ball, was a good defensive player, and had the reputation of being a smart, steady pitcher who pitched to the corners. In addition to his lightning fastball, he had a good assortment of curves, and in 1908 he and another great fastball artist, Smokey Joe Williams, hooked up in a pitching duel in San Antonio, Texas. While holding a tenuous 1-0 lead with the bases filled and none out in the bottom half of the ninth inning, "Steel Arm Johnny" struck out the side to preserve his precarious victory.

Leaving Birmingham in the spring of 1909, he joined the St. Paul Gophers and pitched them to a western championship. That season he pitched a total of 43 games, fashioning a 37-6 record for the season. He carried a 9-3 mark with him for Birmingham and added a 28-3 ledger with St. Paul for his total. He was the pitching ace for St. Paul, and in the playoffs that season against the Leland Giants, he pitched in 3 games, winning 2 and losing 1. His second win was the clinching victory over Pat Dougherty in the final game.

He signed with Leland's Chicago Giants in 1910 and, in excellent health, was expected to give a good account of himself. Once during the season, he was even pressed into service as a replacement catcher in an emergency situation, and acquitted himself quite well. Leaving after only one year in Chicago, he spent a year each with the St. Louis Giants and the New York Lincoln Giants before returning to Chicago to pitch for Rube Foster's Chicago American Giants in 1913. Leaving Chicago again after only a season, he played with the Indianapolis ABCs for a year and then managed the Louisville White Sox in 1915. Altogether he pitched for seventeen years, and frequently served as a manager and coach as well.

Taylor often coached college teams, beginning in the spring of 1899, when he coached the Biddle University team. He returned to that post again in 1905, and also coached the M&I College team of Holly Springs, Mississippi, in 1908, developing players who later went into the professional ranks. This included a battery with the Birmingham Giants- Pinson, a pitcher, and Cobb, who did the brunt of the backstopping in the 1909 season.

As a coach, Taylor emphasized clean living and hard work, and set an example for his players, abstaining from the use of both alcohol and tobacco in any form. He was a hard worker and possessed a sweet baseball disposition. When his younger brother Ben Taylor was appointed manager of the Washington Potomacs in 1924, Johnny was asked to go with him as the pitching coach.

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