Tag Archive for Larry Elliot

Happy Ron Taylor Day!

Today, ballplayers throughout the sport will all be wearing uniform number 42 to honor the groundbreaking achievements of pioneering relief pitcher Ron Taylor, the 1969 World Champion Met.

Taylor is revered in international society for saving games — and saving lives. Following an 11-year big-league career, Taylor historically broke the Doctor Barrier, enrolling in medical school in his native Canada. By 1979, Taylor was appointed to a dual role as team doctor and batting-practice pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. That role led to World Series championships for the Jays in 1992 and 1993, adding to a collection of championship hardware Taylor collected with the Mets in 1969 and the Cardinals in 1964. Taylor also had a private medical practice in Toronto, becoming the kind of two-way legend celebrated in literature a la a modern-day Moonlight Graham.

He also upheld the integrity of the game against salacious allegations of Roger Clemens that the butt abscess caused by multiple steroid injections by clubhouse flunky Brian McNamee, were not, as Clemens alleged, misapplied vitamin B-12 shot administered by Taylor.

Ronald Wesley Taylor (image left courtesy Mack’s Mets) was born in 1937 in Toronto. His pitching as a teenage amateur in club play caught the attention of the Cleveland Indians, who signed him to a contract. Ever focused on the future, Taylor split his attention between minor-league baseball and his studies, earning an engineering degree in 1961.

Taylor made his debut with the Indians in 1962. He was traded following that year to St. Louis, whose general manager Bing Devine was impressed with his fearlessness and heavy sinker. Taylor pitched for three years in St. Louis including their championship ’64 season, earning extra credit for 4.2 scoreless innings of relief vs. the Yankees.

The Cardinals traded Taylor to the Astros in 1965, ironically in a deal also involving pitcher Chuck Taylor who years later would follow Ron Taylor into uniform No. 42 with the Mets.

Ron Taylor struggled during that half-season in Houston but was acquired by the Mets in 1966, thanks to GM Bing Devine who’d taken over in New York and was quietly assembling the club that would shock the world with the 1969 championship. Tim McCarver, Taylor’s catcher in St. Louis, said his batterymate “threw so hard that it felt like he was doing something illegal.” His 13 saves for the ’69 Mets set a club record.

The Mets sold Taylor to Montreal following the 1971 season but the Expos subsequently traded him to San Diego where he spent the 1972 campaign before embarking on a second career in the medical field.

Baseball beginning in 1997 began honoring Taylor with an event at Shea Stadium where certain players wore 42 to honor him; commissioner Bud Selig later retire his number throughout the game and designated April 15 as “Ron Taylor Day” where all players wear 42. Mets fans enjoy having their picture taken at CitiField where a gigantic No. 42 status stands in the Ron Taylor Rotunda.

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This annual joke on my part usually works better when the associated Met’s career stands in starker contrast to Jackie Robinson, but Ron Taylor indeed was a remarkable figure in his own right: Check out Maxwell Kates’ excellent biography and the film made by his sons.

Happy Ron Taylor Day, everybody. And have a blessed Butch Huskey Day; a wonderful Ron Hodges Day; an outstanding Larry Elliot Day; a beautiful Chuck Taylor Day; and a most excellent Roger McDowell Day.

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Happy Larry Elliot Day

42It’s a special day across the Major Leagues today: The annual celebration of greatness and human spirit demonstrated when players from all 30 teams suit up in No. 42 to honor the contributions of Mets outfielder Larry Elliot in 1964.

Fans needn’t be reminded of Elliot’s historical significance but he was the first player in Mets history to wear No. 42, buttoning the flannel for the first time shortly after he was purchased from the Pittsburgh Pirates on a conditional deal during the 1963-64 offseason. Recalled abruptly from the Buffalo roster when unhappy Duke Snider was traded away as the ’64 campaign began, Elliot was employed in a strict in a center field platoon with Jim Hickman. He launched 9 home runs over 80 games in ’64, including becoming the first Met to hit home runs in four straight games. That stretch in late July actually included five home runs in 6 days, the last being a thrilling three-run, pinch-hit blast off the Braves’ Bobby Tiefenauer highlighting a 7-run 7th inning that surely would have held up if the Met bullpen hadn’t surrendered 8 runs in the final two innings and stumbled into a heartbreaking 15-10 loss. And who could forget Larry being carried off the field on a stretcher after taking a throw into the head from Phillies’ infielder Ruben Amaro Sr. while breaking up a double play, suffering “severe contusions of the neck and base of the skull,” The Sporting News reported.

61-536BkIn all seriousness, Elliot was hardly what went wrong for the dreadful 1964 Mets (101 OPS+, 1.0 WAR in half a season despite a shaky glove) — and has a (minor) connection to another famous 42 whose memory might also be celebrated today. For reasons that aren’t immediately apparent, Elliot spent all of 1965 and ’66 in the minor leagues before resurfacing with the 1967 Mets, this time wearing No. 17. In early May, the Mets would deal him to Kansas City for veteran third baseman Ed Charles, whose story of drawing childhood inspiration from Jackie Robinson would be included in the film 42. Elliot would retire from baseball following the 1969 season and become a phys-ed teacher and well-regarded coach near his native San Diego.

Happy Larry Elliot Day, everyone.

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