March 30, 2020

Spotlight: C.I. Taylor

Taylor is regarded alongside Rube Foster as the two greatest managers of all time in the Negro Leagues.

Charles Isham “C.I.” Taylor was born in 1875 in Anderson, SC to a Methodist minister. C.I. and his three younger brothers James, John, and Benjamin would all play baseball and the South Carolina natives would all be pioneers of the Negro Leagues, with the elder brother C.I. making an impact both on and off the field.

C.I. attended Benedict College in Columbia, SC and Clark College in Atlanta, GA. With C.I. playing third base in 1900, the Clark team would go undefeated. He served in the Spanish-American War in 1898 as a member of the Tenth U.S. Cavalry Regiment in the Philippines.

In 1904, C.I. founded the first all-black professional team in Birmingham, AL. He managed and played for his Birmingham Giants from 1904-1909. His brothers Candy Jim (James), Steel Arm Johnny (John), and Ben (Benjamin) all played for C.I. with the Giants during these years.

In 1910, C.I. moved his Birmingham team to West Baden, IN and renamed the team to the Sprudels. In 1914, he moved his team again – this time to Indianapolis, IN. The local brewery, American Brewing Company, became the team’s sponsor in Indianapolis and C.I. renamed the team to the ABCs. It was with his teams in Indianapolis that C.I. would experience his greatest success as a manager.

From 1914-1921, C.I.’s ABCs would win 263 games under his leadership and would feature future inductees to the National Baseball Hall of Fame: Ben Taylor (C.I.’s younger brother), Oscar Charleston, and Biz Mackey. Also playing for Indianapolis were stars Bingo DeMoss, and Dizzy Dismukes. In 1916, the ABCs would win the Western Championship by defeating their bitter rivals, the Chicago American Giants. Chicago’s team was owned and managed by another future baseball Hall of Famer, Rube Foster.

In 1920, Foster collaborated with the other all-black baseball teams across the country to form the Negro National League (NNL), baseball’s first officially organized Negro League. The League included the Indianapolis ABCs as one of the charter members. At a meeting on February 13, 1920 at the Kansas City YMCA in Missouri, Foster was named President of the NNL and his biggest on-field rival, C.I. Taylor, was asked to serve as the league’s Vice President. Sadly, in 1922, C.I. passed away unexpectedly from pneumonia at the young age of 47. After his death, C.I.’s widow, Olivia, took ownership of the ABCs and his brother Ben became manager.

The Taylor brothers from South Carolina had a vital part in the legacy of the Negro Leagues. C.I.’s brother Candy Jim played and managed in the Negro Leagues until 1947. His brother Steel Arm Johnny retired from baseball in 1920. Ben Taylor played and managed in the Negro Leagues until 1938. Since Ben’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, C.I. has been nominated as a Negro Leagues candidate to join his brother in baseball’s Hall of Fame, but has yet to be selected.

photo: Taylor brothers (L to R)
Candy Jim, Steel Arm Johnny, C.I., and Ben (Indianapolis Freeman, April 16 1910)

Negro League Baseball Museum
Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams (Robert Peterson)
The Indianapolis ABCs: History of a Premier Team in the Negro Leagues (Paul Debono)
Agate Type: Sprudel team (Gary Ashwill)
The Black Social History
SABR article (Todd Peterson)

2 thoughts on “Spotlight: C.I. Taylor

  1. Good story, but according to the April 21, 1900 Indianapolis Freeman, C.I. Taylor played third base for Clark University… referenced him as the best third baseman in the league. I was wondering if you had documentation indicating he played second base. Thanks

    1. Thanks for the info Jay, I was reading Riley’s Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Leagues where he referenced Taylor as playing 2B out of college. I can update my post to show third base at Clark.

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