The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum continues to celebrate the history of the Negro Leagues, and MLB.com’s Bill Ladson has written a series of articles on some of the league’s legends. Today, the focus is on James Allen Taylor, aka Candy Jim.
Candy Jim Taylor came from tremendous baseball family. He was one of four brothers involved with the Negro Leagues in some capacity. Not only did they manage in the talented league, they thrived as active players.
Brother Ben, for example, played first base and was posthumously voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. C.I. Taylor, a second baseman, could really play up the middle, while Johnny Taylor was a successful pitcher. But Candy Jim sticks out. He made his mark as a player/manager and was known to put himself in games as a pinch-hitter. It also helped he had a longer baseball career than any of his brothers. It lasted almost 40 years. One historian, Phil Dixon, believes Taylor belongs in the Hall of Fame over brother Ben.
“I don’t think [the Hall of Fame] got that one right,” Dixon said. “Candy Jim is the one who had the real career. I talked to [first baseman] George Giles, who played for Ben on the Brooklyn Eagles. One of the problems they had with Ben managing that team -- they said he was playing one run at a time. He didn’t adjust with the times. Candy Jim, he continued to adjust with the times.”
If you think Satchel Paige was a journeyman in the Negro Leagues, Candy Jim would give him some competition. Taylor played for 19 Negro League teams, mostly at third base. His best years were with the St. Louis Stars in the mid-to-late 1920s. The right-handed-hitting Taylor spent seven years in St. Louis and hit .340 and with a .398 on-base percentage and .543 slugging percentage during that span, according to Seamheads.com's Negro Leagues database.
As a manager, Taylor was a master strategist, historians say. He knew the game. For example, he led the Stars to their first championship in 1928 by defeating the Chicago American Giants for the Negro National League title. He managed the great Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and Cool Papa Bell in 1943 and ’44, when they were with the Homestead Grays. Together, they won consecutive Negro League World Series titles. In his 30 years at the helm, according to Seamheads.com's Negro Leagues Database, Taylor won 991 games, a Negro League record. It helped that Taylor managed many young players such as Mules Suttles, Willie Wells, Double Duty Radcliffe, Larry Brown and Willie Foster.
“We sometimes focus on the actual on-field talent and you forget about the folks that guided these teams,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. “Rube Foster was a master strategist. C.I. Taylor was a master strategist, and so was Candy Jim. These were brilliant baseball tacticians, so they knew the game.”
Candy Jim’s last year as a manager was in 1947 with the Chicago American Giants, who were 28-61 that year. He was scheduled to manage the Baltimore Elite Giants starting in '48, but he died of a heart attack.
“He is managing right up to the end,” Dixon said. “His life was baseball. He was a good player to start with, but he was a great manager. He should have been a Hall of Famer as a manager. There is so much work to be done telling these stories. It just depends on who is telling the story.”