Another day off for the Royals (and the rest of the American League, actually) as they traveled to Cleveland for the start of a three-game series and six-game road trip.
Let’s continue meeting some of the players who made up the 1969 team with a brief look at Hawk Taylor.
Robert Dale Taylor was born on April 3, 1939, in Metropolis, Illinois. He acquired the nickname “Hawk” as a youngster, after his favorite movie serial. After a sterling high school career, he signed with the Milwaukee Braves (this was before the amateur draft was created) for a $119,000 bonus, the largest-ever given to a rookie at the time. Under the rules then in effect, Taylor had to be on the Braves’ big-league roster. Milwaukee won the World Series in 1957, so it is perhaps not surprising they had little playing time for an unproven rookie; Taylor played in seven games and batted once. Later on, he would tell The Sporting News that, either out of boredom or an effort to impress, he developed a bad batting practice habit of swinging for the fences. Also, he hurt his arm, bad news for a catcher/outfielder. Anyway, the “bonus baby” rule was changed before the 1958 season, and Taylor was sent to the minors for the seasoning he needed.
Although he played a few games for the Braves in 1958, Taylor would not really get another chance at the majors until 1961. But then he got called up to a different team—the military. Two Army stints limited him to 20 games in 1961 and again in 1962. After a broken collarbone suffered in spring training 1963 limited Taylor to 16 games that year, the Braves sold Taylor to the Mets.
For the first time, Taylor got some real playing time in the majors, hitting .240/.272/.329 in 235 plate appearances in 1964. But he would languish on the bench for the next two seasons before being traded to California in July 1967. He played sparingly for the Angels that year, then spent all of 1968 in the minors. The Royals actually selected him in the Rule V draft, not the expansion draft. Expansion teams always need catching. (Cue Taylor’s one-time manager Casey Stengel explaining, “If you don’t have a catcher, you’ll have a lot of passed balls.”)
The Royals thought Taylor might compete for the starting job, but Ellie Rodriguez beat him out. With smaller pitching staffs in those days, teams could afford to carry a third catcher, so Taylor and Jim Campanis both made the roster. Campanis got most of the backup duties, especially when Taylor demonstrated his worth as a pinch-hitter early in the season. Over the first month or so of the year, the Royals won seven games in their final at-bat, and Taylor provided two of those, coming off the bench to belt home runs that turned out to be the difference. He also tied one game with a pinch-hit single; the Royals eventually won that one, too. For the season, Taylor hit .270/.313/.427 in 96 plate appearances, with a .265/.308/.388 mark as a pinch-hitter in 52 plate appearances.
After one more season with the Royals, Taylor was traded to Boston in February 1971. He never appeared in the majors for them; in fact, he was released by their Class AAA team in June 1971. That was the end of his professional baseball career. Taylor went back to school, earning two degrees from Murray State University in Kentucky, then coaching baseball at Lambuth College in Tennessee, as well as at the junior college and high school levels in Kentucky. He passed away in 2012 after a series of illnesses and is buried in Paducah, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from his hometown.