Thursday, July 28, 2011

PWI (Playing While Intoxicated) only drew two-game suspension in 1960

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

Today, if a player showed up drunk for a game, he’d probably be locked up in re-hab for a month. But in 1960, when the Seattle Rainiers were contending for the Pacific Coast League pennant, such an incident only drew a two-game suspension.

Joe Taylor, Seattle’s all-star outfielder, was suspended indefinitely between games of a double-header July 5, for reporting “in an unfit condition to play ball.” He also was abusive to G.M. Cedric Tallis and Manager Dick Sisler.

Sisler removed Taylor from the first game when he stumbled over first base after being hit by a pitched ball by Portland’s Pete Mesa. Taylor reportedly bragged to teammates: “I’m drunk.” He had been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol 15 days before, fined $250 and lost his driver’s license for 30 days.

Taylor was back in the line-up on July 7, with the Rainiers six games out of first. According to a follow-up note in The Sporting News of July 27, after “he promised to reform,” his teammates voted to take him back. If, in fact, his teammates had a real voice in determining Taylor’s status with the club, it seems to be to have been a serious abrogation of management’s responsibilities in the matter.

After garnering only four hits in his next 25 tries, he was in danger of being benched, but he made it the rest of the way, playing in 145 games and batting .291. He led the Rainiers that season with a career-high 30 home runs. Seattle finished the season in fifth place.

Taylor didn’t return to Seattle for 1961, moving instead to San Diego, the Chicago White Sox affiliate in the PCL. He ended his pro career in the Mexican League in 1963. Taylor died in 1993.

Taylor had played professionally since 1949, when he was a catcher with the Chicago American Giants of the Negro American League.

He came to Organized Baseball in 1951, becoming the property of the Philadelphia A’s, for whom he debuted in the Major Leagues in 1954. He spent part of every season between 1951-63 in the minor leagues. He often batted over.300, with 20 or more home runs.

His major league stops included the Cincinnati Reds in 1957, the St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles in 1958 and the O’s in 1959. He played in 119 big league games, batting .249 with little power.

Taylor’s only major league baseball card was in the 1958 Topps set. He also appeared in several regional sets such as Union Oil, Seattle popcorn and Henry House wieners during his Pacific Coast League days.

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