Monday, August 6, 2012

#412 - Chuck Taylor

From what I can tell, this is the third card in a row in which poor itinerant Chuck Taylor is airbrushed into his uniform. In ’72 he is painted into a Mets one although that card has one of those “look up at ...” photos so the artist didn’t have to do too much work. In ’73 he looks miserable dyed into a Brewers uniform and here we get the trifecta where he is airbrused into an Expos suit. I don’t know where he is so it is hard to tell in which uniform this photo is actually taken but that huge see-saw in the background should be of some help. Despite a bunch of time in Triple A in ’73 Chuck had a good season that summer: 9-7 with 12 saves and a 2.50 ERA at that level and his posted numbers up top. At most Chuck would have been about 31 when this picture was taken but to me he looks a bunch of years older. Maybe the ink the Topps guys used to convert his uniforms all those times was a bit toxic.

Chuck Taylor grew up in and around Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where he played hoops and baseball at Bell Buckle High. After graduating in 1960 he stayed local by attending Middle Tennessee State and was signed by the Cards the summer after his first year there. Chuck went 3-5 the rest of that summer in D ball but with a pretty good ERA. He moved to C ball in ’62 where he went 9-5 with a 3.22 ERA and then in ’63 to Double A (9-10 with a 3.76). After that season he was traded with Jim Beauchamp to the Colt .45’s for Carl Warwick. Chuck had a tough time in the Houston system, going a combined 9-12 with an ERA close to 6.00 in Double and Triple A before getting sent back to St. Louis with Hal Woodeshick for Ron Taylor and Mike Cuellar (oops!) in June of ’65. While he only went 4-7 the rest of the way for the Birds in Triple A he did pull his ERA down over two runs. In ’66 until then a starter, Chuck did relief work and did very nice work in Double A (3-2 with a 1.30 ERA) but not so hot up a level. In ’67 it was back to the rotation in Triple A with much better numbers. Then in ’68 Chuck cut loose, going 18-7 with a 2.35 ERA and five shutouts at that level and after kicking off ’69 by going 5-1 with a 2.06 ERA in eight starts he finally got his shot in the bigs.

Taylor was an old rookie at 27 in ’69 but he did some nice work as a swingman, starting about half his games. In ’70 his starts dropped to seven but he got eight saves as one of the team’s closers. In ’71 he added three saves as he had only one start and then hit the road again, this time to the Mets with Jim Beauchamp – again – and Harry Parker for Art Shamsky, Rich Folkers – coming up soon, Charlie Hudson, and Jim Bibby. Chuck’s season in NY wasn’t too encouraging as his ERA zoomed the wrong way up top and stayed there when he went back to Triple A, although he did go 9-2 at the lower level with seven saves. In September the Mets put him on waivers and Milwaukee grabbed him. After putting up much better numbers in a few games for the Brewers down the stretch he nearly made it to the end of ’73 spring training before he was released and picked up by Montreal.

For the Expos in ’74 Taylor had by far his best year in the majors, going 6-2 with 11 saves and a 2.17 ERA in 107 relief innings. While nobody was going to forget the monstrous numbers of Mike Marshall, Chuck was a pleasant surprise and did a nice job filling at least part of the gap. In ’75 the Expos, after a couple years at roughly .500 ball, took a few steps back and Chuck’s innings and numbers came in - 2-2 with six saves - as Dale Murray took over the closer job. After a reduced role in ’76 he was done. He finished with a record of 28-20 with a 3.07 ERA, six complete games, and 31 saves.

Taylor returned to Murfreesboro after his career ended and set up a local hardware store. He also did a bit of local scouting for various teams and in the Nineties began a fund-rising golf tournament for his – I guess – alma mater of Middle Tennessee State. He was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in ’85 and also apparently did some local government work on various committees. He had a stroke during the 2000’s but recovered and is still an active presence in his community.

So that first star bullet is a good one but I think they could have posted a better one for the second one. I guess the cartoon is a preview for at least some of the work he did after playing.

Since this post occurs on a Monday there is some music news to report. On August 1, 1973 Jerry Garcia gets a surprise for his 31st birthday: a naked lady jumping out of a cake given him at a concert in Jersey City. On August 4, Maureen McGovern’s “The Morning After” takes over Number One in the US. The song is the theme song to the big hit “The Poseidon Adventure.” On August 6 Stevie Wonder gets into a nasty car accident in North Carolina – why did these things always happen in the south? – and slips into a four-day coma with severe head injuries. On August 1, 1974 things are a bit brighter. In the UK the first album ever to go platinum there is announced: The Carpenters’ “The Singles 1969 – 1973.” And in the States Bruce Springsteen begins recording the album that in a year-plus will be “Born to Run.” On August 3 Bruce and his boys open a show in NYC for singer-songwriter Anne Murray. The E Street Band wows everyone so much that poor Anne is nearly booed off the stage. It will be their final opening gig and will also be the last time Ernest “Boom” Carter and David Sancious perform with the band. During the recording of the new album they will be replaced by, respectively, Max Weinberg and Roy Bittan.

So how do we get these two southern kids together? Here’s how:

1. Taylor and Mike Torrez ’69 to ’71 Cards and ’73 to ’74 Expos;
2. Torrez and Roy White ’77 Yankees;
3. White and Frank Baker ’70 to ’71 Yankees.

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