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Negro Leagues
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Negro Leagues Legacy

Stars of the Negro Leagues

Corner man
Taylor one of the best first basemen in Negro Leagues
By Brian Wilson/

In all but one of his first 16 seasons, Ben Taylor batted over .300.
Born: July 1, 1888, Anderson, S.C.
Died: Jan. 24, 1953, Baltimore Md.
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

Prior to Buck Leonard, Ben Taylor was the best first baseman to play in the Negro Leagues. Taylor was nimble around the bag, scooping poor throws to save his fellow infielders from errors. Yet his lifetime .333 average displays the breadth of his talents.

In all but one of his first 16 seasons, Taylor batted over .300. In a 1949 Philadelphia Evening Bulletin article, Oscar Charleston selected Ben Taylor as his first baseman on his all-time All-Star team, but Taylor initiated his career as a pitcher for the Birmingham Giants in 1908. After playing for the St. Louis Giants (1911-12) New York Lincoln Giants (1912) and Rube Foster's Chicago American Giants (1913-14), Taylor made his name playing for the team his brother, C.I. Taylor managed and owned, the Indianapolis ABCs.

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Initially sponsored by the American Brewing Company, the roster was littered with Taylors, including Ben's brothers "Candy Jim" and "Steel Arm" Johnny Taylor. In his first season with the team, Ben hit from the cleanup spot, posting a .333 batting average.

Following a 1915 season in which he hit .308, he set Cuba ablaze, hitting .500 in winter league play. He took that hot bat into the 1916 championship season. Ben went 11-for-18 in the World Series, stealing three bases in five games.

Other than a 1919 season split between Hilldale and a managerial stint with the Bacharach Giants, Ben played with the ABCs from 1914 to 1922. In that final season, he replaced C.I. as manager in the wake of his death.

In 1923, Taylor organized the Washington Potomacs, bringing Johnny along as pitching coach. The team joined the new Eastern Colored League in its inaugural season the following year.

Ben continued as a player/manager, joining Harrisburg in 1925 and the Baltimore Black Sox from 1926 to 1928. He was then traded to the Bacharach Giants in exchange for their manager Dick Lundy prior to the 1929 campaign, the final season of his playing career. He continued to coach and manage until 1940.

After leaving the game, Taylor was an active businessman, operating a poolroom and acquiring the rights to printing and selling game programs at Baltimore Elite Giants games, according to The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues.

Ben Taylor died in January 24, 1953 of pneumonia, in Baltimore, Md.

Brian Wilson is an editor/producer for the This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.