What do Connie Mack, Casey Stengel and Frank Taylor have in common? They all managed ballclubs when they were well into their 70s. Mack, who managed the Philadelphia A's for 50 years, was 88 when he finally turned the reins over to Jimmy Dykes. Stengel was 75 when the New York Mets replaced him with Gil Hodges.
Frank Taylor, 75, has a softball managerial career record of 2,067 wins against 486 losses for a winning percentage of .810. He began managing in 1946 for Baltimore's Trenton Democratic Club. For the next 30 years his teams captured 15 state titles and 10 Central Atlantic regional crowns. In 1977, he retired from his job as a Baltimore housing inspector and from fastpitch softball.
But the bug wouldn't let go. With his new home in Arkansas as his base, he went on the road. He managed teams in Arkansas, Illinois and Virginia. After an absence of 16 years, the gravelly voiced manager returned to Maryland this spring with the goal of building a winning team. He found a sponsor, signed players, bought uniforms.
After a hectic start-up period, Taylor put the team -- Tucker's Physical Therapy Associates -- in league and exhibition games. In its impressive first season, the team has qualified for regional tournament play.
Q: When you left Maryland after the 1976 season, did you think you'd ever be back?
A: No. I had just retired from my job and my son Andy had just graduated from Calvert Hall. My wife of 48 years, Pauline, had always wanted to return to her home town of Pine Bluff, Ark. So the three of us headed south. Andy enrolled at the University of Arkansas. I thought softball was behind me.
Q: What happened to make you change your mind?
A: Nothing dramatic. I just missed the game terribly. I needed to be part of the action. People started calling. My wife gave her blessing. I returned [to team managing, first in Arkansas].
Q: Did you experience immediate success?
A: Sort of. We won more than we lost, but we really needed a sponsor willing to invest enough capital to field a first-class operation. Arkansas is a great state but it wasn't used to major softball. We had to travel great distances to meet adequate competition and that can be costly.
I received a call asking if I'd like to be pitching coach [in Decatur, Ill.]. The sponsor told me they were bringing in some top-notch talent. From a personal standpoint, it was a great move. I got to work with right-hander David Scott. In my second season I was named manager and we won the national title.
Q: Instead of returning to Arkansas, you went to Virginia. Why?
A: Same as always. Promises that top talent would be provided. When it didn't happen, I returned to Arkansas.
Q: That brings us to the present. Why Maryland?
A: I love this state. I spent 35 happy years playing and managing in Baltimore. I ran into Leo Mills, an old coaching opponent in Baltimore, at the nationals last year. We spent a great deal of time talking about the "old days." Then he suggested we get together and try for a national title. [Mills became the team's general manager.] My biggest regret is that I never gave the Maryland fans a national title.
Q: Is that your next goal?
A: Yes. And, if we are able to pull it off, then maybe I'll retire -- officially.
Q: If you couldn't do it before, why do you think it is possible now?
A: The game has changed in this area. From 1946 to 1976, I had some outstanding players but there were several teams with similar goals. The talent was spread thin. In other regions, the best players usually gravitate to one team, thus establishing a powerhouse.
My sponsor, Bill Tucker, has given me the resources to build a contender. I plan to combine the best area talent available with some imports.
Q: Anyone who follows fastpitch knows you can't go far without a world-class pitcher. Were you able to secure one?
A: We have David Scott, one of the finest pitchers in the country. He was the ace of my staff in 1981. He was 28-8 last season in Indiana with the Shelbyville Sting. Since 1979 he has captured four MVP awards, been an All-American selection four times, and been on the World Team.
Q: Can he do it alone?
A: He won't have to because we also have Mike Ohl and Gene Green, two outstanding talents. And my son Andy adds 15 years of experience to the staff. Ohl, a 6-foot-8 right-hander, is no stranger to the area. He carried Annapolis Radiator to three Amateur Softball Association of America nationals. He pitched last season for the Reading (Pa.) Sunners, and has a career record of 548-190. Green has pitched in seven ASA national tournaments and a pair of Pan Am Games. My 34-year-old son launched his career in 1977 with the Pine Bluff (Ark.) Rebels. He has participated in seven ASA nationals and sports a lifetime mark of 289-87.
Q: Are you satisfied with the team's progress?
A: Yes. We got off to a slow start for two reasons. First, Scott had an appendectomy two weeks before the season started and, secondly, it took some time for me to find the right combination of players.
Q: Where do you -- and the team -- go from here?
A: We'll be playing in the International Softball Congress tournament [today] and in the Amateur Softball Association regional tournament Aug. 1 and 2. Both tournaments will be in Elkton. Winners of the regionals will advance to national competition. The season will end in September, then we'll be out in the winter scouting and, of course, planning for the future.End of mission-