Notable Alumni: Oscar Charleston, Elwood “Bingo” DeMoss, “Biz” Mackey, Ben Taylor and “Cannonball” Dick Redding
Named after the American Brewing Company, the Indianapolis ABCs experienced an interesting yet boisterous path to the Negro National League. Beginning as an independent team in 1907, the ABCs didn’t really experience any kind of sustained success until 1914, when C.I. Taylor joined the team as co-owner and manager. Coming on board with him were his three brothers, third baseman Candy Jim Taylor, pitcher Steel Arm Johnny Taylor and first baseman Ben Taylor, who was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. All three made an immediate impact on the team’s performance.
Led by the four Taylors, the ABCs finished the 1914 season in second place among Western Independent Clubs, a major leap from the seventh spot they found themselves in at the conclusion of the previous season. The team that finished above them in 1914 was Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants, and what ensued was not only a rivalry between those two ball clubs, but separate factions within the ABCs itself.
The following season was a tumultuous one for Indianapolis. The team's play had once again landed it at the top of the standings and in direct competition with the Chicago American Giants for the Western Independent Club championship, but 1915 didn't end well for the ABCs. That year’s championship between the ABCs and American Giants was disputed, but The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues gives the title to Chicago. If that wasn’t enough, the offseason saw a major power struggle occur behind the scenes, with C.I. Taylor and fellow co-owner Thomas Bowser in major disagreement over the club. The friction between the two grew so irreparable that each decided to field their own ABCs team for the 1916 season. Taylor would eventually get the better of the situation, though, retaining the more talented core of the 1915 team that pushed for a league title. Taylor’s victory over Bowser became even more apparent when his ABCs finally defeated Foster’s Chicago American Giants for that year’s Western Championship, and Bowser would end up selling his ABCs ahead of the 1917 season.
Though C.I. Taylor and Foster were competitive rivals on the field, there must have been an underlying respect between the two, as Taylor would revive his ABCs in 1920 (they did not take part in the '19 season) to join Foster’s American Giants as charter members of the first viable Negro League, the Negro National League. The ABCs ended up playing a total of seven seasons in the Negro National League, to mixed success. The 1922 season was among their best from a performance standpoint, but sadly it was also the year that C.I. Taylor passed away. His widow, Olivia, took control of the ABCs, and his brother Ben stepped up as well to assume the team’s managerial duties. Though things went fairly well that first season without him, the ABCs we’re unable to maintain the same level of success that C.I. had brought, leading the team to disband after the 1926 season.
Two different iterations of the ABCs would emerge in the years following, but neither was able to survive more than a few years. In the end, it’s hard to dispute that C.I. Taylor’s bunch was the most prominent version of the Indianpolis ABCs.