Tag Archives: Cuba

Philography: Tony Taylor

My Philography series of mini-bios highlighting the careers of the most interesting and important individuals throughout Philadelphia Phillies history continues with this 23rd entry.

Links to the previous 22 entries, which include such notables as Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Richie AshburnDick AllenJim BunningLarry BowaDarren Daulton and many more can be found below.

In 2002, Tony Taylor became the 24th person overall and the first-ever Hispanic player to be honored with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame. He has since been joined by Juan Samuel (2008) and Bobby Abreu (2019) as Hispanic players honored among the franchise immortals.

Sports columnist Milton Richman, who became the sports editor at UPI and was honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame with the Taylor Spink Award in 1981, said of Taylor back in 1975: “Tony Taylor has a special way with people. It doesn’t matter who they are, other ballplayers, fans, or the press. He’s to the Phillies what Ernie Banks was to the Cubs.

That “special way” – his friendliness, positive personality, and willingness to share a knowledge of and passion for the game that he loves – is what has always endeared Taylor to Phillies fans, especially those who got to enjoy his years as a player with the team during two stints and a long-time association with the club as a coach and goodwill ambassador.

Taylor played for 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, 15 of those in a Phillies uniform from 1960-71 and then from 1974-76. Though his career ended more than four decades ago, Taylor is still 12th on the Phillies all-time hits, 16th in steals, and 17th in runs scored on the franchise leader boards. Only four men – Schmidt, Ashburn, Bowa, and Jimmy Rollins – have played more games in a Phillies uniform.

Born Antonio Nemesio Taylor Sánchez on December 19, 1935 in Central Alava in the Matanzas province on the island of Cuba, Taylor was raised there and began playing baseball as a young boy. He would eventually get to enjoy the game alongside his younger brother, Jorge.

Central Alava was “a quiet place,” Taylor said in 1970 per a more detailed bio piece on him by Rory Costello and Jose Ramirez for SABR. “Nothing to do but play ball or swim in the river. As a boy I went to school and worked in my cousin’s butcher shop. I liked chemistry. If I didn’t go into baseball, I would have become a chemist for a sugar company.

During the mid-late 1950’s, Taylor turned professional. He was officially a member of the San Francisco Giants beginning in 1954, and played the next few years in both the Cuban professional league and in the U.S. minor leagues, building a reputation as a slick-fielding shortstop.

After playing with Dallas in the Texas League during the 1957 season, the Chicago Cubs selected Taylor from the Giants in the December Rule 5 minor league draft. He was then immediately installed as the Cub’s starting second baseman and leadoff hitter at just age 22.

Taylor’s glove proved far more advanced than his bat during his rookie 1958 season in the Windy City. But that glove was good enough to keep him in the starting lineup. The following year, Taylor’s offensive production took a step forward. His average jumped 55 points to the .280 mark and his slugging percentage rose nearly 80 points, with Taylor nearly doubling his number of extra-base hits.

He opened the 1960 season still as the starter at second base with the Cubs, but that wouldn’t last long. On May 13, 1960, Taylor was dealt to the Phillies along with catcher Cal Neeman, with the Phils sending their starting first baseman, Ed Bouchee and young starting pitcher Don Cardwell to Chicago.

Taylor quickly became a fan favorite at Connie Mack Stadium. He hit .310 over his first 56 games as new manager Gene Mauch‘s starting second baseman with 16 extra-base hits , 17 RBIs, 31 runs scored, and a dozen stolen bases. That performance earned Taylor his lone career National League All-Star nod.

The young Phillies won just 59 games in that 1960 season, finishing in last place in the National League. But over the next few seasons they slowly built a contender under Mauch.

A core group of players that included outfielders Johnny Callison, Tony Gonzalez, and Wes Covington, catcher Clay Dalrymple, shortstop Bobby Wine, and pitchers Chris Short and Art Mahaffey all grew up together during the early 1960’s with the Phillies.

In 1962 the club finished 81-80, their first winning season in nearly a decade. The following year they upped it to 87 wins and a fourth-place finish. Then two big moves set the Phillies up to become legitimate contenders.

A big trade with Detroit in December 1963 brought in the veteran ace starting pitcher that the team needed in right-hander Jim Bunning. And a 22-year-old Dick Allen was handed the starting third base job as a rookie.

The addition of that big arm and bat to the maturing, talented, tight-knit core proved to be an exciting and winning mix and they led the National League for much of that summer. On Father’s Day, Bunning tossed the first Perfect Game in Phillies history as the Phillies downed the Mets by 6-0. An incredible play at second base by Taylor with one out in the bottom of the 8th inning helped make that historic gem at Shea Stadium possible.

Holding a 6 1/2 game lead with just a dozen left on the schedule, the Phillies organization printed up tickets for their first World Series appearance since 1950.

As even Phillies fans who weren’t around to experience the disaster are well aware, that Fall Classic appearance wasn’t meant to be. The team suffered through an infamous collapse, losing 10 straight games and 13 of 15. Though they won their final two games, the 1964 Phillies would finish a tantalizing one game out, in second place.

That group would never win a pennant, but they were a winning ball club. The Phillies enjoyed a winning record for six consecutive seasons from 1962 through 1967. Taylor was a starter during that entire period. As the 1960’s came to a close, that winning core began to age and was traded away, the club’s performance deteriorated on the field, and Taylor slid over to third base. In 1969 the Phillies would win just 69 games.

During spring training in 1970, the SABR bio describes what Taylor called “the biggest moment in my whole life.” His mother and sister, and his sister’s husband and children, arrived in Miami from Cuba. Taylor had been trying to get them out since 1962. “They led a difficult life. They did not believe in the Communists and were not given food and clothing. They had to buy things in the black market.

In that 1970 season the Phillies played their final year at old Connie Mack Stadium. The former Shibe Park had been the club’s home since 1938, and had been the home of the American League’s Philadelphia Athletics from 1909-54. But the brand new Veteran’s Stadium was being built in South Philadelphia and would become the Phillies new home for the 1971 season.

Taylor spent that final year at Connie Mack serving as a utility player at age 34 on a rebuilding Phillies ball club, with youngsters Denny Doyle and Bowa taking over the starting roles in the middle infield.

On a Sunday afternoon in that final summer at the old ballpark, Taylor enjoyed a moment that would live on in Phillies history. It was August 2 and there were just over 10,000 fans at the start. Most were no longer there as the Phillies came to bat in the bottom of the 9th inning, trailing the San Francisco Giants by 6-3.

Larry Hisle led off with a double off Giants starter Ron Bryant and Doc Edwards followed with a base hit, moving Hisle to third base. When pinch-hitter Terry Harmon worked Bryant for a walk, the bases were suddenly loaded.

Giants skipper Charlie Fox went to his bullpen, calling in southpaw Mike Davison as Taylor stepped to the plate. In his 13th big-league season, Taylor had just 60 career home runs at that point. This moment would produce number 61 as Taylor blasted the first-ever walkoff grand slam in Philadelphia Phillies franchise history.

Taylor would open the first 1971 season at The Vet still with the Phillies, but would not finish the year with the team. On June 12 he was dealt to the contending Detroit Tigers for a pair of minor league prospects, neither of whom would ever reach the big-leagues. He would serve as the backup to Dick McAuliffe at second base with Detroit over the next three years.

It was with those Tigers where he would make his lone playoff appearances, starting and playing the full Games 2-5 in Detroit’s heartbreaking loss to the eventual World Series champion Oakland A’s. Taylor was just 2-15 in that 1972 ALCS, and went 0-4, striking out twice, in the decisive 2-1 victory for Oakland. In fact, he flew out to center field against Vida Blue for the final out with the tying run on base in the bottom of the 9th inning for the final game at Tiger Stadium.

In December 1973, Taylor returned to the Phillies, signing as a free agent at age 38. He would close out his playing career as a utility player and pinch-hitter over three final seasons in Philadelphia as the club finally returned to contending status in the mid-1970’s. This was when I saw Taylor play in person, in that twilight of his career.

Per the SABR bio, a July 1974 AP account included the following: “All Tony Taylor has to do is stick his head out of the Phillies’ dugout and the fans go wild.” This feeling too was mutual. “I love those people,” said Taylor of the Veterans Stadium fans. “If a guy gives one hundred per cent they cheer for you. They know baseball, and they know whether a player is playing hard or not.”

During an early 1976 slugfest at Wrigley Field, Schmidt drilled home runs in four consecutive at-bats during an 18-16 victory for the Phillies over the host Cubs. Per Larry Shenk, the Phillies Hall of Famer and all-time greatest player used one of Taylor’s bats to blast what proved to the the final game-winner in the top of the 10th inning.

As the 1976 Phillies captured the club’s first National League East Division crown, Taylor missed much of the season’s first three months injured, returning for the stretch run. Between games of a doubleheader in Montreal after the Phillies had clinched the division, Allen gave manager Danny Ozark an ultimatum – include Taylor on the postseason roster or Allen wouldn’t play. The skipper forged a compromise, naming Taylor as a coach for the NLCS in which the Phillies were swept out by Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine.

Following that season, Taylor formally retired as a player and became the Phillies first base coach from 1977 through 1979. Over the winter in 1978-79, Taylor managed the Águilas del Zulia club to a spot in the Venezuelan Winter League finals.

During the 1980 and 1981 seasons, Taylor served as a roving infield instructor. He won the first of three career World Series rings as a member of the organization when the Phillies captured the first championship in franchise history in that 1980 season.

Through most of the 1980’s he bounced around the organization, serving as a minor league manager and a roving instructor. Per the SABR bio, his personal life suffered a setback during this period when Taylor went through a divorce from wife Nilda during this period. He then returned to the big club in the role of first base coach with the 1988 and 1989 Phillies.

Taylor moved on to become a coach with the San Francisco Giants and the expansion Florida Marlins during the 1990’s. In 1999, the Marlins brought him back to the big-leagues where he served in the role of first base and infield coach. During this period he earned a second World Series ring when the Marlins captured the 1997 title. He would get a third when the Fish again won the championship in 2003.

In April 2004, Taylor was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame. Following one final season as the Marlins bullpen coach in 2004, Taylor officially and finally retired from baseball. Since that time he has enjoyed his retirement living in Miami, a home for many in the Cuban-American community.

This past August, Taylor attended the Phillies Wall of Fame ceremony at Citizens Bank Park when his friend Abreu was inducted. While in Philly for those Alumni Weekend celebrations, Taylor suffered a series of strokes.

Per a report by Matt Breen in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the 83-year-old Taylor wanted to return to Miami, and was transported from Jefferson Hospital to the airport. The Phillies paid for a team of nurses to accompany him and his second wife, Clara, on a private flight home.

The Phillies have done great,” Clara said per Breen. “They were wonderful. He’s doing therapy and progressing really slow but hopefully well.” Numerous former Phillies teammates and club officials, including owner John Middleton, stayed in close touch on his return home. “It was overwhelming…He’s aware of everyone who has been calling,” said Clara per Breen.

That caring and concern from the Phillies organization and fan base is a reflection on the decades of good will built up between themselves and Tony Taylor. Here is to hoping that he is able to recover and continue to enjoy life, again returning one day to walk out onto the field in Philadelphia and continue this long-time genuine love affair.

 

PHILOGRAPHY SERIES

Click on the “date” in order to read the Philography piece. Click on the individual name to view their stats page at Baseball Reference

10.17.2014 – Greg Luzinski

10.24.2014 – Mitch Williams

10.31.2014 – Chris Short

11.07.2014 – Von Hayes

11.14.2014 – Placido Polanco

11.21.2014 – Jim Konstanty

11.28.2014 – Dick Allen

12.06.2014 – Dick Ruthven

12.12.2014 – Grover Cleveland  Alexander

12.20.2014 – Darren Daulton

12.13.2015 – Larry Bowa

1.09.2016 – Sherry Magee

1.26.2016 – Kevin Stocker

2.10.2016 – Granny Hamner

2.15.2016 – Edith Houghton

12.27.2016 – Bob Boone

1.19.2017 – Mike Lieberthal

2.02.2017 – Red Dooin

11.29.2018 – Richie Ashburn

2.03.2019 – Jim Bunning

2.10.2019 – Mike Schmidt

12.09.19Steve Carlton

No Tomas; What Next for Phillies?

Cuban Yasmany Tomas signed with Arizona Diamondbacks
The Philadelphia Phillies, considered the front-runners in many media circles for months, did not lose out in the bidding process for the services of young Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas.
The player’s agent, Jay Alou, said that the Phillies never even made a formal offer to his client. “The player wanted to sign” according to Alou, who believed that GM Ruben Amaro’s “hands were tied” by a necessity to clear salary space, as reported by Philly.com reporter Matt Gelb.
With home attendance down and a publicly stated rebuilding program begun, the likelihood is that 2015 will bring even further declines to the Phillies revenues. A new deal with Comcast cable is in place, but does not begin infusing extra cash into the team coffers until 2016.
In a publicly released video yesterday, Assistant GM Scott Proefrock briefly discussed the club’s strategy when shopping for free agents.

“We target guys, and plan a strategy. Especially when you know you’re competing with other clubs for particular players. We do an analysis. Try to figure out what other teams needs are, figure out who we might be competing against. What the depth of a particular position is, and what our fallback position would be if we don’t sign our top guy.”

There was significant competition for Tomas, with the Arizona Diamondbacks finally signing the outfielder to a reported 6-year, $68 million deal on Turkey Day Eve last week. That was apparently too high a price under the Phillies current overall limitations. Now it’s unclear what the fallback position might be.
In the Tomas hunt, Gelb reported that GM Ruben Amaro reiterated a previous public statement, that “there haven’t been any impediments by our ownership group” that would financially tied his hands in trying to improve the club for 2015.
Despite that proclamation, the decline in short-term revenues, the publicly stated desire to shed veteran players and their contracts, and the realities of other teams who will be contending and are willing to spend money to that end, combine to paint a bleak picture for the team’s die-hard fans over the next couple of seasons.
Going forward, we can expect the team to get more active in its attempts to unload veteran stars for prospect packages. The free agent market should begin to really crystalize in the next week or two. Once some of the top available players do sign, teams left without a seat in the financial musical chairs game may find the Phils resources a bit more attractive.

Yasmany Tomas and Phillies: a Perfect Match

Cuban defector Yasmani Tomas looks perfect for Phillies
Ever since it was announced that Cuban phenom Yasmany Tomas had left the island nation and would be seeking a job in Major League Baseball this past summer, speculation has run rampant as to which organization was his most likely landing spot.
In recent weeks, that speculation has focused squarely on the Philadelphia Phillies, with the Fightins now considered the odds-on favorites to land the power-hitting corner outfielder.
Tomas played for 5 years in Cuba’s top league, Serie Nacional, and Baseball America rated him as the #6 prospect performing at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He is graded as having a ’70’ in raw power on the standard 20-80 scouting scale.
There is little doubt that Tomas would not need much developmental time in the minor leagues, if any at all. He would project to plug immediately into the Phillies starting lineup in either right or left field, and would likely become the #3 hitter in the batting order, with Chase Utley moving up into the 2-hole.
There has been much speculation that the Phils would try to change the face of the team this off-season, with pretty much everyone available at the right price. It is unclear if landing Tomas, and assuming a healthy return from Cliff Lee, would alter those plans in any substantive way.
The Phillies are the favorites for three reasons: they have the clear need, they have the resources, and they have the motivation. The 2014 corner outfielders were 37-year old Marlon Byrd and the wildly inconsistent Domonic Brown. Playing time will be no problem.
Sep 28, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown (9) watches from the dugout against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. The Braves defeated the Phillies, 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Dom Brown may never be what Phillies hoped

The contract is likely to be something like 7 years in the$130-140 million range. For a true slugger turning just 24 years old next month, that is reasonable and the Phillies have the cash. And off a last place finish, there is obvious motivation. There are most definitely other suitors with need and money, most notably the division-rival New York Mets, but few to the extent of the Phillies.

Should 3rd base prospect Maikel Franco continue to develop as hoped, he could team with Tomas to begin building a true bridge to the next contending Phillies team. The signing of Yasmani Tomas should be considered a litmus test for general manager Ruben Amaro, who has much to prove to an unimpressed fan base.

Shameful Che Shirts

Do you own, or have you owned and worn, or know someone who owns and has worn one of those allegedly ‘cool’ Che Guevara t-shirts? Do you know the reason that the shirt was being worn? Does the image on the shirt actually stand for something? Do you even know who Che Guevara really was?

The ‘Che Guevara’ t-shirt and image has become a symbol of sorts for all that is ‘counter-cultural’. It is often meant as a protest symbol for those who feel that the ‘little man’ is being intentionally repressed in some way by government and/or business.

Wanting to help those who are less fortunate than we are is a noble sentiment. So is wanting to effect positive changes on a government or on a society that has become repressive or abusive to it’s citizens. So what exactly does that have to do with America, the most free country in the history of the world? And why on earth would this man be an appropriate symbol for such protests anyway?

Ernesto ‘Che’ Gevara was born in 1928 in the South American country of Argentina to parents of mixed Spanish and Irish heritage. He was brought up in a very political and intellectual environment, and became a reader of the works and teachings of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin at an early age.

In 1951 he took a year off before entering medical school in order to travel around South America on a motorcycle. During this trip he experienced first-hand the poverty in much of the land, and as a result ultimately wrote ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ in regards to the trip. The book was subsequently made into a major release film in 2004.

As Guevara matured into manhood his views became more and more radical, and he eventually established the stated viewpoint that Marxism achieved through armed struggle and defended by an armed populace was the only way to rectify what he believed had become ‘American imperialism’ in Latin America.

Of course the true facts were that in nearly the entirety of South America, poverty was endemic, and ruling regimes in nearly every country had for centuries failed to bring about positive change due to greed for power and controlled material wealth for the privileged few.

Any American efforts to change those conditions in order to ultimately help the people by establishing democracy and capitalism was seen as interference, or ‘imperialism’, trying to impose our ways on others. The motives of the American government and business were always painted as self-serving when the truth was that true capitalist democratic change would indeed be good for both North and South American peoples.

The fact is that Latin American people would indeed be freer and have a better chance at sustained economic growth under truly democratic forms of government that adopted capitalist economic systems. But the power-hungry South American rulers would not let that happen, in fact would consider such a statement as paternalistically insulting, and so used and still use propaganda to paint America as a big bully and themselves as poor peasants who just want to be left alone.

It was within this atmosphere that Guevara moved his family to Mexico City in 1954, and a year later he was introduced through some Cuban exile friends to a man by the name of Fidel Castro. He was immediately swayed by Castro’s militant revolutionary ideas and began serious military training in guerrilla warfare tactics.

He went with Castro to participate in the violent overthrow of the Cuban government in the late 1950’s, becoming an integral leader of the rebel army. He became feared for his brutality and ruthlessness, torturing or executing anyone whom he deemed a traitor, spy, or deserter. Finally the Castro forces were able to defeat and overthrow the Cuban government and took control of Havana in January of 1959.

On taking charge, Guevara was put in charge by Castro of sorting out and punishing all political enemies and ‘war criminals’. In this role, Che Guevara oversaw and even participated in the killing of hundreds of people without due process. Guevara was then later put in charge of the economy, and began to install his beloved socialist values. As always happens with such socialist systems, his programs ended in the abject failure of decreased productivity and increased dependency on the government. The Cuban economy remains in shambles to this day.

During the 1960’s he became the principle voice and actor in establishing and growing the Cuban-Soviet relationship that brought Soviet ballistic missiles to the island nation just a hundred miles from the Florida coast. As history tells us, this led to the single closest experience the world would ever come to all-out nuclear war.

When the Soviets finally backed down from the Kennedy administration and withdrew the missiles, Che became enraged at what he called their betrayal, and he turned against them. He stated that had the nuclear-armed missiles been under Cuban control, he would have fired them off against the Americans. During the course of his adult life, Guevara was possibly the most vocally anti-American individual in history.

Ultimately Guevara would travel all around the world trying to educate himself on Marxist, communist, socialist, and terrorist ideals and tactics. His trips would take him to places as disparate as China, Egypt, and Ireland. He would lend his hand to Marxist revolutionary efforts in the Congo in Africa and back in South America in Bolivia. It was there that he was finally captured and executed in October of 1967.

During his lifetime, Che Guevara was closely involved with or directly responsible for violent government overthrow, torture, execution and overall destruction to humanity on a massive scale. None of his efforts were ever successful at helping any group of citizens lead a safer, happier, more secure life. In fact, his policies and actions in Cuba and other parts of the world led to death and disillusionment for millions. In the end, like Mao and Lenin and numerous others, he was a failed socialist murderer.

So this is the man whose image the ‘counter-culture’ has deemed as ‘cool’ to wear on a t-shirt. At least in South America they are beginning to get it. A recent popular t-shirt worn by youth in Argentina mocked “I have a Che tshirt and I don’t know why”, capturing perfectly the question for any young American who would ever display his image. Why are you wearing that shameful Che shirt?