Frank Taylor, softball manager, dies

Pitcher and coach, he was the driving force in Baltimore softball for decades and won national honors

  • Frank Taylor
Frank Taylor
May 06, 2011|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Frank Taylor, who spent decades managing winning softball teams and earlier in his career had been a standout pitcher, died of cardiac arrest Tuesday at Jefferson Medical Center in Pine Bluff, Ark. He was 94 and had lived in the Idlewilde section of Northeast Baltimore.

Born in University City, Mo., he played in the minor leagues for the Springfield, Mo., Cardinals at age 16. He learned to pitch softball in the parks around St. Louis and decided to focus on softball because he could make more money than playing baseball.

He pitched in his first Amateur Softball Association World Tournament in 1934. He returned to the World Tournament again in 1938 and was named Missouri's top softball player. He pitched his team, sponsored by the Kutis Funeral Home, to a second-place finish.

During World War II, he joined the Army. He was undefeated as a pitcher during his time with the Army and moved to Edgewood Arsenal in 1946. While in the service at Edgewood, he answered a Sun ad for a softball pitcher. He joined the jeweler Leon Levi team in Carroll Park on a Sunday afternoon. He pitched and won both ends of a double-header, friends recalled. He struck out 37 batters over the course of the two games, defeating a previously undefeated Rail Inn club.

"In his career, his pitching and hitting were often overshadowed by his managerial success," said his son, Andrew Taylor of Pine Bluff. "As a manager, he won 12 Maryland state championships and nine Central Atlantic Regional championships."

Political boss Jack Pollack recruited Mr. Taylor to play for his Trenton Democratic Club team at the Easterwood Park diamond in West Baltimore. As a pitcher and sometime center-fielder, he led Trenton to Maryland State Championships in 1947, 1949 and 1950. Later, as a player-manager, he led the Trenton teams to six consecutive Central Atlantic Regional Championships between 1950 and 1955.

"He was a fierce competitor and is widely known for his confrontations with umpires. Some have likened him to the Earl Weaver of softball," said Kenneth "Boh" Hatter of Towson, a friend who played for him in the 1990s. "His knowledge of the sport, his recall of game details and his affection for the sport remained amazingly strong even into the last days of his life."

With Mr. Pollack's help, Taylor took a job with the city's Department of Public Works in 1946 and retired from his work there in 1976. He was an inspector of streets and alleys.

His Baltimore-based teams won 15 Maryland State Fast-pitch Championships, 10 Central Atlantic Regional Championships, and 10 berths in the ASA World Championships. The 1952 team finished third in the ASA World Tournament held in Bridgeport, Conn.

Mr. Taylor was the first member elected into the Maryland Fast-pitch Hall of Fame in 1962.

He coached the two fast-pitch softball players elected into the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame, Ray Truszkowski and Bill Vonden Bosch.

In addition to his Trenton Democratic Club teams, Mr. Taylor also managed a number of successful local teams, including Johnny's Used Cars in Hamilton, the White Coffee Pot restaurants, and Schaefer Beer.

A 1969 Sun profile of him said, "As a manager Frank is considered a tyrant. He frowns on players taking in a few rounds of golf during the season, he watches their diets before games, sets curfews when the team is on the road and is quick and vocal with his criticism."

Friends recalled his gravelly voice and barrel chest. At Patterson Park in the 1960s, he sat in a folding aluminum chair when his team competed.

Mr. Taylor also lived in Virginia and Illinois in the 1980s and returned to Baltimore in the 1990s for a period. While in Decatur, Ill., he captured the sport's 1981 ASA Men's Major National Fast-Pitch Championship while serving as manager of the Archer Daniels Midland Corp. team.

He amassed 2,226 wins while suffering 521 losses over his 41-year managerial career.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. May 21 at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Pine Bluff, Ark., where he was a member.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 65 years, the former Pauline Ozment; and a brother, Richard Taylor of Corona del Mar, Calif.

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