- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 28 Oct 2004, p. 60-69
- Taylor, Dr. Ronald W., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Personal anecdotes from the speaker's life.
- Date of Original
- 28 Oct 2004
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- Dr. Ronald W. TaylorHead Table Guests
Former Major League Baseball Pitcher and Physician to the Toronto Blue Jays
Chairman: Bart J. Mindszenthy
President, The Empire Club of Canada
Doug Morris, Contract Sales, Inkan Limited and Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Molly Churchill, Grade 12 Student, North Toronto Collegiate Institute; Reverend Stephen Peake, Rector, St. Thomas Anglican Church, Shantybay; David Wilkes, Portfolio Manager, Research Capital Corporation; Dr. Michael Bertram, Professor Emeritus, Basic Neurology, University of Toronto; John Koopman, Vice-President, Spencer Stuart and Immediate Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; The Hon. Mr. Justice Ronald Thomas, Superior Court of Justice of Ontario; and Jo-Ann McArthur, President, Molson Sports and Entertainment and Director, The Empire Club of Canada.
Introduction by Bart Mindszenthy
Ladies and gentlemen, today's lunch is not just about baseball. But I have to ask--did anyone here watch last night's Red Sox-Cardinals fourth game of the World Series?
Well, for those who are fans of baseball and its rich lore, let me announce this hot piece of news: the Babe has left the house and gone to bed. Only Elvis remains.
Now, back to the present. Today's lunch is really about one man's remarkable odyssey through life, and the lessons he learned.
Actually, he's so far had three lives, and for all we know he could be a rather large cat in superb disguise.
Ronald Taylor started off life in Leaside, and began playing organized baseball when he was eight years old.
Less than a decade later, with a strong arm, great control and a sizzling fastball, he was recruited by the Cleveland Indians.
But unlike most pro-ball players, Ron Taylor did something different; he played minor league ball but also completed a degree in electrical engineering at the University of Toronto--with first class honours.
Then he finally got really serious about baseball. In fact, he threw 11 shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox in his major league debut.
And exactly 40 years ago, our guest speaker, now an ace reliever, tossed four and two-thirds innings of no-hit ball for the St. Louis Cardinals against the mighty Yankees and the team took the World Series.
Five years later, he was on another World Series winning team--the New York Mets.
In all, this gifted pitcher from Leaside hurled an amazing eleven and a third innings of no-hit, shutout baseball in World Series games and earned a win and three saves.
Then, it was on to his third and most current life--to become a physician, graduating from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto at age 40.
And since 1979, Dr. Taylor has been a successful family physician with a strong involvement in sports injury management, as well as being physician to the Toronto Blue Jays.
He is the only man I have ever met whose memberships include the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario, the Major League Baseball Players Association and the Ontario Medical Association.
So please join me in welcoming to the podium of the Empire Club of Canada the remarkable Dr. Ronald Taylor.
Thank you Bart.
I got a call from John Koopman several months ago and he said: "You're going to get an invitation to speak at the Empire Club."
And I said: "About what?"
And his comment was: "Just about your life. You've had a lot of experiences and different careers."
I said: "How long is this going to take?"
And he said: "Twenty minutes."
So I said: "We've got the first five minutes covered. Where will we go from there?"
I'm really happy to be here today and I just thought I would relate some things that have happened to me in my life.
When I was 16, I was playing amateur baseball in Leaside and I pitched at batting practice with the Toronto Maple Leafs international league team. I did that for one year. The following year I did it and a scout called Chester called up Cleveland to tell them about this kid in Toronto who could throw very hard. Well Cleveland didn't show much interest so he put me on a train with him and we went down to Cleveland. We got into Cleveland, checked into a hotel near the ballpark, got up the next morning and had a root-beer float for breakfast. We went down to the ballpark and Chester walked in with me and the Director of Player Development was there and he said: "I've got this kid from Toronto who throws very hard."
Well the director started to chew out Chester for bringing this kid in from Toronto without letting him know. I thought that this wasn't really going the way I thought it would. I sat there listening to it. It was a very open office.
The director then said: "Well I'll let the kid work out in our bullpen and he can go home tomorrow on the train."
So I got dressed up in a Cleveland uniform and started throwing on the side. I could throw very hard. I wasn't very smart but I could throw hard. The bullpen catcher called over the pitching coach and he watched me pitch that day. I went back out the next day and pitched and this day the manager of the Indians, Al Lopez, came over and caught me. He said: "Would you like to sign with Cleveland?"
I said: "I'm going to sign but I want the maximum that I can get." At that time if you got more than that you had to stay in the big leagues for two years.
So they signed me. I was only 17 so my parents had to give their consent for it. The next day I pitched at batting practice for Cleveland on Labour Day Monday and we went back after the game. They flew us back on Air Canada on a DC3. Chester was a sheet-metal worker for the Board of Education who out of his own pocket paid my way to Cleveland. I'll never forget what he did for me.
I went down to spring training the next year, 1956. There were 250 players there in Daytona Beach and my number was 247. I know "T" is low in the alphabet but not that low. There was a guy across from my locker who was with Indianapolis. I was with Daytona Beach Florida State league team. Number 9. He was very friendly and kind to me. That was Roger Maris, who was playing for Indianapolis at the time.
I won 17 games that year for Daytona Beach and pitched 247 innings at the age of 18. I then went back to the same minor league director in Cleveland and I said: "I have made a decision. I'm going to go back to school for five years."
He said: "You're what?"
I said: "I'm going back to school for five years. I want to finish grade 13 and do four years engineering."
He said: "Do you want to go to Case Institute? We can put you on a semester system there."
I said: "No, I want to get it over with. I want to get the five years over with. But I will play baseball for you in the summer time. I just won't go to spring training."
He said: "You will?"
I said: "Yes." I had him on the hook because I had won 17 games that year.
He said: "Okay. We'll go for that. That's fine."
So I went back to school and I finished grade 13 and went down and pitched in Fargo, North Dakota. I won 12 games there. And then I went into engineering and I went from Fargo, North Dakota to Minot, North Dakota to Reading, Pennsylvania to Mobile, Alabama to Salt Lake City, Utah. I then finished engineering and said to Cleveland: "I've got a lot of job offers here" which I really didn't have, "but I really like to play baseball."
The director said: "We want to have you back."
I said: "Well I want an invitation to the big league training camp."
He said: "Okay."
I went down to Tucson as an invited player and I was number 66 so I was moving up the ladder. I started spring training, pitched 23 scoreless innings and made the Indians. I went to the boss. It was the second game of the season. I started against the Red Sox, still under the Babe Ruth curse at that time, and pitched 11 scoreless innings against them. I gave up a grand slam home run in the twelfth and lost, but it was still a good day.
After the end of that season I was traded to the Cardinals. I was going to be their fourth starter and they put my locker next to Stan Musial's to kind of make me feel at home with the Cardinals. I was looking for all this fatherly advice from him and he said: "Kid, if you want to get your shoes shined put them in my locker. I'm a big tipper."
I said: "Thanks Stan, that's great."
I had a good year that year. We finished up second. The Dodgers beat us but I was second to rookie pitcher of the year that year in the National League. In the following year we won it.
Some people always ask you: "What happens when you are in a tight situation and the manager comes out. What does he say to you?"
I can recall one day in 1964 in San Francisco and Johnny Keane was our manager. He brought me in with the bases loaded and the hitter was Willie Mays.
I walked in and he said: "Now listen, the bases are loaded."
I'm thinking: "I already know that John."
He said: "The hitter is Willie Mays."
I thought: "I had that figured out too, John."
So he said: "Now be very careful now. Don't give him anything to hit but don't walk him." This is the big leagues.
We went on and that year we went right down to the wire and won the National League at the end of the season. The last day we were playing against the Yankees. We got in the series, we were down two games to one, and a lot of people asked me what it was really like to go out and pitch in a World Series. We were in New York, we were down two games to one and the Yankees got three runs in the first inning. So now we were down three nothing, down two games to one. If we lost this game we were toast because we were playing in the Yankees stadium and had another game the next day.
Ken Boyer, our third baseman, hit a grand slam home run in the top of the sixth. I was warming up in the bullpen and all these Yankee fans were heckling me. The phone rang and I was told I was the pitcher on. So I walked out into the Yankee stadium. There were 70,000 people there at that time. It was the old stadium. When you walk in you just see all these people as you walk towards the mound. I walked by Kenny Boyer and he said: "Keep the ball down Ronny."
I said: "Thanks Ken." As you walk in you have all the auxiliary scoreboards there and then you walk out to the mound. You have eight pitches to get loose. Tim McCarver was the catcher. I threw it at Tim and all of sudden my whole focus changed. Just Timmy and me playing catch and then the umpire told me to play ball. The first hitter walked up. All I saw (I knew who it was and how I was going to pitch him) was Tim's glove and there was no sound. It was just Tim and I playing catch. I threw it where I wanted to throw it that day. It was one of the best days of my life because I pitched four innings with no hits and we won the game four to three and went on to win the World Series. That was really good.
Now I go to a period of my life where I was traded from the Cardinals to Houston because they wanted to get this left-handed pitcher. I get down to Houston and Paul Richards was general manager there. They had a press conference and they asked me what I thought about the trade. I said that it was a bad trade for both clubs. So that shortened my stay in Houston.
The following year I was traded to the Mets. I didn't want to play in Houston anyway. It is too hot down there. I go to spring training with the Mets and I walk in the clubhouse and the manager is Wes Westrum and Casey Stengel was there. Casey was now a Vice-President and would hold a break-camp meeting for the players. He said: "I want to tell you guys that you are the New York Metropolitans. You represent the biggest city in North America. We have got a great ball club here. We have got Tom Seaver. Tom Seaver is 22. In 10 years Tom Seaver will be an all-star pitcher perennially. Over here we have Nolan Ryan. Nolan Ryan is 21. He throws a ball at 100 miles an hour; he's going to be a hall-of-famer. Over here we have got Jerry Koosman. Jerry Koosman is 25. In 10 years he's going to be the best left-hander in the National League. And over here we've got Ron Taylor. We just got Ron Taylor in a trade from Houston. Ron Taylor is 27. In 10 years if he takes care of himself he will be 37."
Well we broke camp and headed north and got to New York and there was a rain-out so half the team held a victory party. We finished last that year.
The following year we got a great manager, Gil Hodges, and Gil identified everybody's responsibilities. We all knew what our job was and all of a sudden we really started to gel. The young pitchers like Seaver, Koosman and Ryan came along and this old guy Taylor was coming along a little bit too. So the following year we won the pennant. It was just amazing because we had the best pitching staff in the National League that year.
I can think of some stories with Gil Hodges. One particular day I came in the pitch and he called me up from the bullpen and there was a slight drizzle. So Gil came out and he was singing "raindrops keep falling on my head" and he said: "Listen now, we have got first base open, Aaron's up and I want you to put him on and pitch to Cepeda.
I said: "No. I want to pitch to Henry."
He said: "You what?"
I said: "I want to pitch to Henry. I'll get him out."
He said: "You'd better." I got him out and went back to the dugout and was sitting down and looking at Gil Hodges.
He comes up and said: "You're crazier than I thought you were."
Another time with Hodges was when I was pitching and got a line drive off my head. I was looking for the ball all around and I hear one roar go off and another roar goes up and then Hodges comes out laughing. I'm hit in the head and still looking for the ball and he said: "How do you feel?"
I used to always say to him: "I've never felt better."
This time I said: "If I felt any better it would be criminal."
So he said: "Well you just got a double play off your head. That's an assist play. Get the next guy out." He left me in. Now we'd rush the guy to the hospital.
Well it was a great year for us. In the playoffs we went down to Atlanta and beat them two games in a row and actually I was quite happy about it. I had a win and a save in those two games. We went back to New York and beat Atlanta and we played Baltimore in the World Series. We lost the first game, we won the second game, which I saved, and then we went back to New York and won three in a row to win the World championship. There was just bedlum. The whole stadium exploded. People came on the field. They were picking up pieces of turf. Somebody stole home plate and we had a ticker-tape parade the next day which was just surreal. There were millions of people in New York at this parade. They were tearing buttons off your suit and molding off the cars. It was great. It was a good time.
So all things have to end and my arm went bad. I was washed up so I thought I would exploit going back to medical school.
A very good friend of mine arranged for me to have an interview with the Associate Dean of Student Affairs. I walked in and said: "I'd like to sign up for medical school."
He said: "You would?"
I said: "Yes, I would."
He said: "Well you know we have several thousand applications for about 200 spots."
I said: "I didn't realize that."
He said: "How old are you?"
I said: "I'm 34."
He said: "What have you been doing?"
I said: "I'm been playing major league baseball."
He said: "What's that?" I knew I was in trouble right there.
He said: "While you're here let me look at your transcripts." I did very well in engineering. He looked at them and looked at me. "Are these yours?"
And I said: "Yes." He shook his head and said: "Well I'll tell you what. If you were 24 you'd be in. But you're not. You're 34. What I suggest to you is to go back and take an honours science course in biology, microbiology and organic chemistry and if you get the same grades we'll consider your application."
So I said: "What are the odds?"
He said: "Well it depends upon the personality of the admissions committee. I'd say about 50-50."
I said: "Those are pretty good odds. I'll take them."
So I went back and became a recluse. I changed my whole day around. I'd go to school from eight to five, sleep until 10, and get up and study from 10 to 7. I did that for a whole year. I went back and I got the grades and was admitted into medical school.
So I now show up at medical school. I walk in and the class thought I was a repairman. They were looking for my tool kit. I got through medical school okay, became an intern, went around in clinical groups and sometimes the professor would think I was a volunteer patient.
Finally I got through it and got my licence to practise medicine. I have been practising medicine now for 27 years and it is my fiftieth year in professional baseball so that means I'm getting old.
I think I'm very fortunate in that everything I've done in life, every career or job I've had, I have just loved. I still start every morning in my office at 6 o'clock. I just love working and I take pride in what I'm doing. I always ask my patients: "How's your job going?" A lot of times people who aren't having fun at their jobs have health problems. I think it is very important to have that.
To wrap it up, I feel very fortunate having been born in Canada. I was a descendant of Irish pioneers and Welsh immigrants. My mother was going to get on a boat to go to Australia and they missed the boat and came to Canada. So I'm glad I'm here. To finish I'd like to say: "God bless Ireland, God bless Welshmen, and God bless North America." Thank you.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by John Koopman, Vice-President, Spencer Stuart and Immediate Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.