Hartford’s Johnny ”Schoolboy” Taylor
Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor was a baseball legend from the South End of Hartford, and one of the most famous Negro League players from that era. Taylor signed a professional contract as a 19-year-old pitcher in 1935 with the New York Cubans, and had a fantastic first season in the Negro
Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor was a baseball legend from the South End of Hartford, and one of the most famous Negro League players from that era. Taylor signed a professional contract as a 19-year-old pitcher in 1935 with the New York Cubans, and had a fantastic first season in the Negro National League. “Schoolboy” was named to the Negro League All-Star team in 1938, and many feel he is the greatest baseball player to come out of Hartford. Taylor became the first black athlete to play professional baseball in Hartford when he played for the Hartford Chiefs in 1949.
The Yard Goats will honor Taylor at the game on June 23rd with a specially designed uniform, and will change their name to the “Hartford Schoolboys,” as part of the Negro League Celebration that evening. The Schoolboys logo features an oversized “H” which was created from an “H” on a uniform in an old photo and the full logo features a silhouette of Johnny pitching.
“We thought this would be the perfect time to pay tribute to Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor, and have our team play as the Hartford Schoolboys,” Yard Goats President Tim Restall said. “Johnny integrated professional baseball in Hartford and we look forward to sharing his story.”
Taylor played baseball in the sandlots around Hartford, and was a track and field athlete before joining the Bulkeley High School baseball team for his senior year. In his last ever high school game, he set a Connecticut state record with 25 strikeouts against New Britain High School. The Hartford Courant reported that a scout for the New York Yankees tried to convince him to pretend he was Cuban and take a Hispanic last name so he could sign him but he refused. Instead, he joined the semi-pro Hartford Twilight Baseball League, where he became a pitching star and is a member of its Hall of Fame. In 2021, Field #9 in Colt Park, where Taylor used to dominate on the pitching mound, was officially named “Johnny Taylor Field.”
One of the highlights in Taylor’s career was pitching a no-hitter to beat the Nego Leagues All-Star team and ace pitcher Satchel Paige at the Polo Grounds in New York in 1937. The six-foot, 165-pound right-hander once pitched his team to victory hurling 22 innings in a game at Bulkeley Stadium. His time in the Negro League was spent playing for the New York Cubans (1935-1936, 1940, 1945), Pittsburgh Crawfords (1938), Toledo Crawfords (1939) and Newark Eagles (1940). Taylor left the United States to pitch in the Mexican League in 1941. After a brief retirement, “Schoolboy” returned to baseball in his hometown, and became the first black athlete to sign with the Hartford Chiefs in 1949.
A story in the Hartford Courant stated that “Taylor is widely considered one of the greatest baseball players to come out of Connecticut, despite the racial discrimination that kept him out of the Major Leagues.”
The Yard Goats have honored Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor since the inaugural season, and have photos of him around Dunkin’ Park. Johnny’s daughter, Lynette Grande, threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the first-ever Yard Goats home game in Hartford in 2017. Lynette was part of the Yard Goats promotion unveiling show this past February when it was announced that the team would play a game as the “Hartford Schoolboys.”