Luther Haden Taylor was known in the politically incorrect world of the early 20th century as Dummy Taylor. Taylor was a deaf mute who was born February 21, 1875 in Oskaloosa, Kansas. He attended the Kansas School of the Deaf in Olathe Kansas, just outside of Kansas City, Missouri.
He began playing semi pro ball in the Mid West, before breaking through in organized ball in Albany, New York. From there he was signed by the New York Giants and played with New York from 1900-1908.
He would communicate with the other players on the field through sign language and has been credited with helping expand the use of signs in baseball. He & his team mates would raise their fingers to show how many outs there were and do the same for pitch counts.
Taylor was a fan favorite with the Polo Grounds faithful at the turn of the century. He was also popular with his team mates & manager John McGraw, possibly because he couldn’t answer back. In any event McGraw learned to communicate with Taylor through sign language as well. On the mound Taylor was noted for an eccentric corkscrew windup that would fool hitters.
He also was notorious for some of his antics on the field.
He loved to bait umpires with his sign language although it did backfire at times. One funny story has McGraw & Taylor insulting an umpire through signage, only to find out the ump had a deaf relative and understood what they were relaying. He ejected them both from the game. Another story tells how Taylor walked on the field under an umbrella with winter boots on, during a rainy day game. The delay in play caused the game to be stopped.
Taylor debuted in 1900 going 4-3 with a 2.45 ERA in eleven games for the 8th place Giants. In 1901 he had a rough season, although he won 18 games he also led the league in losses (27). He also allowed a league leading 377 hits, posting a 3.18 ERA pitching 353 innings with 43 starts in 45 appearances.
He briefly leaped to the recently formed American League in 1902, going to Cleveland but ended up right back with the Giants that same season. He went to 13-13 in 1903 and from there on would never post a losing record again.
In 1904 the Giants won the Nation League title but did not play in the World Series because manager John McGraw refused to even acknowledge the new leagues existence. Taylor was 21-15 (4th in the league in wins) & third on his team behind thirty game winners; Christy Mathewson & Joe McGinnity. Taylor posted a 2.34 ERA, struck out 138 batters (6th in the NL) pitched 29 complete games & threw five shutouts (3rd in the NL).
He would win 16 or more games in each of the next two seasons, pitch over 200 innings and strike out over 90 batters. He would post winning percentages over .600% in each of his last four seasons & average an ERA of 2.50.
In 1905 he was 16-9 with a 2.66 ERA but did not pitch in the World Series, as this was the year of Christy Mathewson. In the World Series he pitched three shut outs in the same week, & Joe McGinnity pitched the other two games. The Giants won their first World's Championship that year.
In 1906 he was 17-9 for the second place Giants, coming in third on the staff once again to Mathewson & McGinnity in wins. But Taylor posted the best ERA of the three at 2.20. Taylor returned in 1907 to go 11-7 as the Giants dropped to fourth place, he posted a 2.42 ERA making 21 starts also getting credit for a save in one of seven relief appearances. His last season was the wild NL season of 1908 where he was 8-5 with two saves.
Taylor played on two Giants pennant winners but never pitched in a World Series game. In his nine year career Taylor was 116-106 pitching in 1916 innings over 274 games. His 2.75 ERA is #88 on the all time list & his 21 shut outs are 230th most all time. Taylor has 160 complete games (199th all time) striking out 767 batters with 551 walks.
Retirement: After baseball Taylor devoted his time to administration in deaf education & coaching the deaf in sports. He worked in schools in Kansas, Iowa & Jacksonville, Illinois.
Taylor passed away in 1958 at age 82 in Illinois. He was elected to the American Athletic Association of the Deaf Hall of Fame & has the gym at the Kansas State School for the Deaf named in his honor.