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Cubs historical sleuthing: The story of three Taylors

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A typical Cubs story of the times.

Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

Getty Images titled this one “Portrait of Three Taylors” and elaborated:

Portrait of three baseball players, from left, Tony Taylor, Joe Taylor, and Sammy Taylor, as they pose together at Wrigley Field before a National League game, Chicago, Illinois, spring 1960.

The problem with this is that there were only two guys named Joe Taylor who played Major League Baseball, and neither one of them played for the Cubs. One of the Joe Taylors played from 1954-59, and looking at his bb-ref page, that’s definitely not the guy in the photo. The other one was a Negro Leagues player in 1937.

The uniform number is clearly a clue. But no one wore No. 29 for the Cubs in 1960. So I looked at years surrounding that date when the other Taylors, Tony and Sammy, were on the team.

Paydirt. The No. 29 depicted is Taylor Phillips, a lefthanded pitcher the Cubs had acquired from the Braves in December 1957, along with with Sammy Taylor, for Eddie Haas, Don Kaiser and Bob Rush. Maybe the Cubs thought his association with the World Series champion Braves of 1957 would help them, though Phillips didn’t pitch in the Series.

So yes, there are three “Taylors” in the photo, two with the last name Taylor, one with the first name Taylor. Don’t know where Getty Images got the “Joe” from.

Taylor Phillips wore No. 29 for the Cubs in 1958. In 1959, his second year with the team, he switched to No. 41. So this photo has to be from 1958; unfortunately, since there’s an arm blocking the scoreboard, it’s impossible to tell when this was taken.

No. 29 has not been a popular number in Cubs history. After Phillips, no one wore it until 1965, when a spare-part infielder named Harry Bright wore it for 27 games. In all of Cubs history, only two players have worn it for more than two seasons: Doug Dascenzo (1988-92) and Jeff Samardzija (2008-14).

Back to Phillips: He spent the entire 1958 season with the Cubs, going 7-10 in 39 appearances (27 starts) with a 4.76 ERA, good for -0.4 bWAR. In May 1959 the Cubs traded him to the Phillies for another lefty named Seth Morehead, whose performance with the Cubs was pretty much indistinguishable from Phillips’. The Cubs completed the circle with the Braves by trading Morehead and Moe Drabowsky there for Daryl Robertson and Andre Rodgers. Rodgers had a few decent seasons in Chicago, but Drabowsky became an excellent reliever, mostly for the Orioles, and pitched until 1972.

The Cubs also traded Tony Taylor to the Phillies, where he played well for a decade and wound up with a 19-year career with over 2,000 hits. For Tony Taylor the Cubs got back Ed Bouchee and Don Cardwell, which, sure, Cardwell famously threw a no-hitter in his first start for the Cubs but was solidly mediocre after.

Sammy Taylor was traded to the Mets in 1962 for Bobby Smith, who went 5-for-29 in a Cubs uniform before being shipped to the Cardinals — with Robertson! — for Alex Grammas and Don Landrum.

Man, the Cubs traded poorly in those days. These deals seemed to have no direction at all, unless by “direction” you mean “giving other teams good players and getting back not-as-good players.”

Just another slice of Cubs life in the late 1950s and early 1960s.