Longtime Phillies infielder Tony Taylor dies

July 16th, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- Before Bobby Abreu, Carlos Ruiz, Juan Samuel and Manny Trillo, Tony Taylor starred in Philadelphia.

Chile Gómez was the Phillies’ first Latino player in 1935, but Taylor was the Phillies’ first Latino star. He played for the Phillies from 1960-71 and '74-76, establishing himself as a brilliant and beloved infielder in his first run through Philadelphia and as a fan favorite bench player in his second.

Taylor died Thursday morning following complications from a stroke. He was 84.

Antonio Nemesio Taylor was born on Dec. 19, 1935, in Central Álava, Cuba. The New York Giants signed him in '54 before the Cubs selected him in the Rule 5 Draft in '57. The Cubs then traded him to the Phillies in May 1960.

Taylor was devastated to leave Chicago.

“I didn’t want to go,” he said. “Ernie Banks and I were very close.”

But then Taylor made the National League All-Star team for the Phillies in 1960, and fans fell in love with him. He played such an incredibly good second base that former Phillies broadcaster By Saam coined the phrase “Taylor-made double play” every time Taylor turned one. Taylor made a fantastic defensive play at Shea Stadium on June 21, 1964, preserving Jim Bunning’s Father’s Day perfect game against the Mets. In the second part of his Phillies career, Taylor got a standing ovation whenever he pinch-hit.

Because Taylor could not return home to Cuba in his offseasons with the Phillies, he stayed in the Delaware Valley. He spent his winters working for the Phillies and local companies that hired him for public relations work. He visited countless churches, hospitals and banquets.

“I loved interacting with the fans,” Taylor said.

Taylor played 19 seasons in the big leagues: Cubs (1958-60), Phillies ('60-71; '74-76) and Tigers ('71-73). He batted .261 with 2,007 hits, 298 doubles, 86 triples, 75 home runs, 598 RBIs, 1,005 runs scored and 234 stolen bases in 2,195 career games. In 15 seasons with the Phillies, Taylor batted .261 with 219 doubles, 63 triples, 51 home runs, 461 RBIs, 737 runs, 169 stolen bases and a .322 on-base percentage in 1,669 games.

Taylor is one of 12 players to have 1,500 or more hits with the Phillies. Chase Utley is the only second baseman to have more hits than him in franchise history. Taylor’s 54 pinch-hits rank second all time in Phillies history.

Taylor coached with the Phillies from 1977-79 and '88-89. He managed and served as a roving Minor League instructor in the Phillies’ farm system from '82-87. Taylor also worked with the Giants and Marlins.

“Tony was undeniably one of the most popular Phillies of his or any other generation,” Phillies managing partner John Middleton said in a statement. “His baseball talent was second only to his warm and engaging personality, as he would always make time to talk with fans when he would visit Philadelphia for Alumni Weekend. Growing up as a Phillies fan, my favorite memory of Tony is the remarkable play he made to save Jim Bunning’s perfect game. It was the play of the game and it was thrilling to see it back then. It remains equally thrilling today to watch Tony turn a sure hit into an out. On behalf of Leigh and myself and the entire Phillies organization, we send our deepest condolences to Clara and all of Tony’s family and friends.”

The Phillies inducted Taylor onto their Wall of Fame in 2002. He was inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, and the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame in 2004.

"It makes me feel proud to be recognized," Taylor told The Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call on his Wall of Fame induction day. "I never expected it. It's a dream. Baseball has been a gift."

Taylor is survived by his wife, Clara, and his children.

Funeral services are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked donations be made to the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation, 3329 Johnson Street, Hollywood, Fla., 33021.