Former Mets closer Ron Taylor, whose fastball helped the Miracle Mets win the 1969 World Series, says he’s been thinking recently about the New York team Gil Hodges put together 47 years ago.
“I keep looking at my scrapbook. We had an unusual team, a lot of young players,” says Taylor, 78, who closed down the Orioles in Game 2 of that series. “I was kind of the oldest player at that time.”
What came after that Fall Classic defined Taylor; a U.S.O. trip to Vietnam inspired him to retire from baseball and attend medical school. He trained and practiced medicine in Toronto and in 1979 became the Blue Jays team doctor, where his duties included throwing batting practice well into his 60s.
Taylor wasn’t a stage performer on the U.S.O. tours, according to his son, Drew Taylor, a filmmaker who along with his brother Matt put together a short film about their father’s unique career, “Ron Taylor: Dr. Baseball,” out now on DVD and video-on-demand outlets including iTunes.
In Vietnam, Taylor tells the Daily News, he and other baseball champions went room to room at U.S. Army hospitals, talking to soldiers as they recovered from a deepening war.
“I really began to worry about them,” says Taylor, who took phone numbers from soldiers so that he could call their loved ones when he was back in the U.S. and tell them their sons were OK.
Taylor’s first star turn in baseball came at the 1964 World Series, when the Cardinals beat the Yankees.
“It was just Tim McCarver and me playing catch,” Taylor says in the film, describing his crucial Game 4 save that evened the series in the Bronx. That game and the entire championship turned on the famous sixth-inning grand slam of St. Louis’s Ken Boyer, after which Taylor came out in relief and retired every Yankee he faced in four innings except for Mickey Mantle, who got a walk.
“He had the heaviest sinker on the outside,” says McCarver in the film. “When he threw to left-handed batters you couldn’t pull it.”
The 20-minute film also features sharp remembrances with Bob Gibson, Joe Torre, Cito Gaston, George Bell and others. Vintage footage shows the Mets’ ticker-tape parade up Broadway in 1969. Taylor was 31 on the mound that season. He retired in 1972 with a 3.93 ERA and headed for medical school at the University of Toronto, where the dean hadn’t heard of baseball.
There isn’t room enough for Taylor’s appearance in a late footnote to baseball history; the former fastballer was dragged into the Roger Clemens mess in 2008, when Clemens said an injection site abscess on his buttock was not from a Brian McNamee steroid injection but rather a shot of B12 the Blue Jays doctor gave him. In an 85-minute interview with congressional investigators Taylor said he gave 30,000 about B12 shots and never gave someone a bad shot.
The transcript of that interview conveys the respect the investigators had for Taylor, a taciturn Canadian who sounds a little like John Wayne, or someone from his era.
“I had a good career and was able to maintain my academics, which was really important,” Taylor tells The News.
“He’s not a guy that would brag about what he’s accomplished,” says Drew Taylor. “You kind of have to drag it out of him.
Luckily for Mets fans, someone has.