There were no fewer than three Negro league pitchers of (some) consequence named John Taylor—Steel Arm Johnny Taylor , John “Red” Taylor, and Schoolboy Johnny Taylor. Probably the least known of these three, Red Taylor pitched for the Chicago Giants and New York Lincoln Giants in the 1920s. (The baseball-reference.com Negro leagues site has wrongly attributed his pitching for the Chicago Giants in 1920 and 1921 to Steel Arm Taylor.)Taylor was a right-handed pitcher who used an emery ball, which, as Ben Taylor remarked sardonically in 1925, “has been declared illegal in all leagues except the Eastern [Colored] League” (Baltimore Afro-American, January 17, 1925, p. A7). According to the Chicago Defender (April 24, 1920), Taylor had “created quite a stir down East, where he was a member of the same club from which Tom Williams was secured; he is an overseas hero, is of fine physique, has a world of smoke on his offerings and knows the game.”
While Tom Williams seems to have appeared professionally for the Bacharach Giants in 1916 then for the American Giants in 1917, in 1918 and 1919 he went east to pitch for the Hilldale Club (as well as the Royal Giants and Bacharachs again) before returning to Chicago in 1920. It so happens that in 1917 Hilldale featured a pitcher named John Taylor. The following photograph of the 1917 Hilldales appears in several books, including Phil Dixon’s The Negro Baseball Leagues: A Photographic History and Neil Lanctot’s book about Hilldale, Fair Dealing and Cleaning Playing:
Lanctot obtained the photograph from the papers of Hilldale official Lloyd Thompson, and, presumably based on information drawn from that collection, identifies the third player standing from the left as “John Taylor.”
Based on the connection between John Taylor of the Chicago Giants and Lincoln Giants and the John Taylor who earlier pitched for Hilldale, this is the photo I’ve used for Taylor at Seamheads.com.
Recently, I was looking at a team photo of the 1920 Chicago Giants that appears in Phil Dixon’s book:
The players Phil identifies are, standing L to R: unknown, Horace Jenkins, unknown, unknown, John Beckwith, Butler White, James Davis, unknown; kneeling L to R, Bobby Winston, Bobby Anderson, unknown, Joe Green, unknown, Willie Green, Thurman Jennings.
Some of the Chicago Giants players that year who aren’t identified (yet) in this photo include utility man Harry Jeffries, both Frank Duncans, Harry Bauchman, Luther Farrell…and John Taylor. And Taylor was easily the Giants’ ace pitcher (if a guy who goes 2-11 can really be called an “ace”), so it would seem pretty likely that he’d be in the team picture.
But check out the unknown guy standing at the far left. He looks a lot like the John Taylor in the 1917 Hilldale photo. Here they are side by side:
I don’t know, though. Sometimes I look at them and they seem obviously the same person, other times I start to think that the 1920 guy’s face is a bit too wide, his ears protruding a little too much. Then again the 1920 photo’s blurrier.
If they are the same, that would obviously cement my identification of the 1917 John Taylor and the 1920s John Taylor as the same person. Plus it would give us one more player in the 1920 photo, and narrow down the options for the other unidentified guys.