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Taylor 'cream of the managerial crop'

Taylor made mark as manager

The Negro Leagues had plenty of superb managers during its history, and C.I. Taylor ranks among the best.

In fact, historians agree that Taylor, and the legendary Rube Foster, were the cream of the managerial crop in the early 1900s.

Known as a strict disciplinarian and skilled teacher, Taylor began his professional baseball career in 1904 as a player-manager for the Birmingham Giants, one of the top black teams in the South. He then skippered the West Baden (Indiana) Sprudels for four years (1910-13) and bought half interest in the Indianapolis ABC's in 1914, managing the team to great success before his death in 1922.

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The success he had developing teams into championship contenders, and playing a major role in establishing the first black professional league (the Negro National League), are key factors in Taylor becoming a candidate this year in the special Negro League election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

A 12-member voting committee, appointed by the Hall of Fame Board of Directors and chaired by former Major League Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, will meet Feb. 25-27 to review the final ballots of the candidates. The committee will then vote, and any candidate receiving 75 percent of the votes will be elected to the Hall of Fame and enshrined during the July 30 induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y., along with Bruce Sutter, Tracy Ringolsby (Spink Award winner) and a Ford C. Frick recipient to be named later in February.

Taylor, born in 1875, was the sixth of 13 children of a farm laborer and preacher from Anderson, S.C. C.I. (Charles Isham) was a member of the 10th United States Cavalry Regiment, an all-black unit that served in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War.

After the war, Taylor attended Clark College in Atlanta where he was a standout second baseman. He became the Giants manager in 1904 and built the first of the city's excellent teams by recruiting college players from the black campuses in the south.

He also recruited heavily within his own family. His younger brothers -- Johnny, Jim and Ben -- also attended college and played baseball extremely well. Ben, the baby of the baseball bunch, is regarded as one of the greatest first basemen in the history of black baseball, compiling a .333 batting average during a 16-year career.

At some point in their careers, all three brothers played for the eldest Taylor son in Indianapolis, where C.I. made his mark on the game as manager of the ABCs, a nickname derived from the previous club owners, the American Brewing Company.

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C.I. Taylor signed local standouts Frank Warfield and Oscar Charleston (a future Hall of Famer) in 1915, and the ABC's were on their way to a successful eight-year run when they were considered one of the most powerful African-American teams in the country.

In his book on the ABCs, author Paul Debono wrote that Taylor and Foster, who managed the Chicago American Giants, had a special love-hate relationship. They were, Debono said, "partly friends, partly rivals, sometimes bitter antagonists, sometimes loyal partners, Foster and Taylor locked horns frequently for eight years."

To back that up, Debono wrote:

In October 1916, the Indianapolis ABCs won a five-game series against the haughty Chicago American Giants in Indianapolis' Federal League Park, losing the first game, then sweeping the final four. In doing so, the ABCs, under the firm and able direction of manager C.I. Taylor, had emerged  from the long shadow of the three-headed colossus two hundred miles to the north: the boastful city of Chicago, with its burgeoning black metropolis; the most glamorous of the nation's most powerful black teams; and the brilliant, though imperious, Rube Foster.

Foster refuted the ABC's championship claims, as he usually did when any team other than his asserted supremacy in the world of black baseball ..."

That came almost one year after an on-field fight between Taylor and one of Foster's American Giants players led to a name-calling episode that nearly ended up in court. Foster called Taylor, "the stool pigeon of the ABC club" and "an ingrate of the lowest kind."

Taylor threatened to sue for libel, but changed his mind, and in 1920, the two combatants were instrumental in forming the National Negro League. Foster was the president and Taylor the vice president. When Taylor died of pneumonia in 1922, Foster eulogized him at the funeral.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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