Hawk Taylor: Mid Sixties Mets Catcher (1964-1967)

Robert Dale Taylor was born on April 3, 1939 in Metropolis, Illinois. The six foot one, right hand hitting Taylor was signed out of high school at age 18.

He was a 1957 bonus baby for the Milwaukee Braves. Taylor originally was originally a catcher earning the nick name "Hawk" by the time he got to the big leagues.

MLB Debut: Taylor debuted in 1957 in order to follow MLB's rules, going hitless in seven games. 

In 1958 he batted .293 in the lower levels of the minor leagues getting back to Milwaukee for just four games. The next season he hit .297 with 23 doubles at AA Atlanta. In 1960 he spent all of the season at AAA Louisville where he hit 17 HRs with 80 RBIs batting .270.

In 1961 he was up & down to the minors finishing out the year hitting his first career HR. It came in the last game of the regular season, tying up the ball game with the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the 9th inning.

In 1962 he hit .255 (12-47) appearing in twenty games the best average he had in his five seasons in Milwaukee. In 1963 after playing in just 16 games batting .069, his contract was purchased by the New York Mets that December.

Mets Career: Hawk made his Mets debut, as the Mets 1964 Opening Day catcher in the game at Philadelphia. In the 5th inning he singled driving in two runs in the Mets 5-3 loss.

In the first game ever played at Shea Stadium, Taylor appeared as a 9th inning pinch hitter, striking out against the Pittsburgh Pirates Bob Friend. 

In Shea Stadiums second game, he replaced Jesse Gonder behind the plate in the 7th inning, In the 8th inning he drove in two runs with a double, although the team lost 9-5 to the Pirates.

Multi HR Game: On June 20th in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium, Hawk had a career day. He replaced Chris Cannizzaro at catcher, after he had gotten injured earlier in the game. Hawk went on to have a four hit day hitting a pair of two run HRs, helping the Mets to a 7-2 victory. The first came in the 3rd inning off Dennis Bennett & a 7th inning shot off Jack Baldschun.

On July 30th, he closed out the month with a three run HR off the Los Angeles Dodgers Hall of Famer, Sandy Koufax in a 5-3 loss.

He came back with another HR the next day against the Astros in Houston. Those would be the only four HRs Hawk would hit all year.

Overall, he played in 92 games batting .240 with eight doubles four HRs & 23 RBIs. He posted a .272 on base % & .601 OPS.

Behind the plate in 45 games, he threw out 40% of would-be base stealers posting a .981 fielding %. He also made just one error in 16 games as an outfielder.

1965:  Taylor played in just five games in April. He would hit four HRs in a five-game span in May. He first homered in back-to-back games he played in against the Reds. On May 23rd he hit a pair of HRs off future Met Ray Sadecki in an 8-7 loss to the Cardinals in St. Louis.

At catcher behind the plate, he only threw out two of the sixteen base stealers attempting to steal on him. Taylor also struggled at the plate hitting only .152 through June 13th & was sent down to AAA Buffalo. There he hit ten HRs with 32 RBIs in 61 games thru the rest of the season there.

1966: He started the year at AAA Jacksonville returning to the Mets in May. On June 13th Taylor hit a three run HR off former Mets pitcher Al Jackson, while helping the Mets to a 5-3 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. 

First Mets Pinch Hit Grand Slam: On August 17th, at Shea Stadium the Mets were down 7-1 to the Pirates when they began a comeback. In the 4th inning, Cleon Jones, Ken Boyer & Jim Hickman singled. Ron Swoboda then walked. Manager Wes Westrum sent in Taylor to pinch hit for Ed Kranepool facing Pirates pitcher Bob Veale.

Taylor then made team history, as he hit the first pinch hit grand slam HR in Mets history in the Mets 8-7 win over the Pirates.

On September 16th he singled home the tying run in the bottom of the 9th inning off San Francisco Giants pitcher Jack Fisher. The Mets scored two more times that inning with the help of Bud Harrelson's triple & then a steal of home plate. The Mets went on to win the game 5-4.

Hawk finished the year batting .174 with two doubles three HRs & 12 RBIs.

1967: Hawk was batting .243 after 13 games when he got traded to the California Angels for Don Wallace. 

Post Mets Career: In 1968 he played 128 games at the AAA level hitting 22 HRs driving in 61 runs. 

In 1969 Hawk was drafted away by the expansion Kansas City Royals becoming an original Royal in their inaugural season. Hawk was mostly used as a pinch hitter in Kansas City, batting .270 with three HRs, five doubles & 21 RBIs.

He was sent to the Boston Red Sox in 1971 but never came back to the big leagues finishing out his career in the minors.

Career Stats: After an eleven-year career Taylor hit .218 with 158 hits 25 doubles 16 HRs & 82 RBIs. He struck out 146 times drew 36 walks posting a .313 on base % & .578 OPS in 394 games played. 

Retirement: After his playing days Hawk went to Murray State University earning a master's degree. Taylor then became a college coach at three different schools.

Passing: In June of 2012, Taylor passed away after a battle with cancer, in Paducah Kentucky, he was 73 years old.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Hawk Taylor did not die of cancer. On the early morning of June 8th, he had fall at home and bumped his head, he went back to bed and never woke up the next day. The impact had caused bleeding in the brain and left Hawk in a coma, by the time they arrived at the hospital there was no realistic hope of saving him. Hawk will be missed by many.

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