A colleague e-mailed me a link to an ESPN.com news article the other day relating to former San Francisco 49er John Taylor, which in turn brought back memories of an unusual collectible (shown here) and a wonderful time in my life more than 20 years ago.
The “Where Are They Now?” feature on the ESPN site told how Taylor had been working for nearly a decade driving a truck for his own firm, J.T. Taylor Trucking, which he started in 1998. “I knew trucking before I knew football,” Taylor is quoted in the article saying. “My grandfather and all of my uncles drove, so I grew up around it.”
The story noted that Taylor drives his W900L Kenworth cross country from his home in California to Philadelphia every week. He and his wife, Elana, who sometimes accompanies him on his cross-country trips, have two daughters in college – one at Utah State and another at Taylor’s alma mater, Delaware State.
Which is roughly where I come in. In 1984, only recently married and relatively new to Delaware, having moved from Albany, N.Y., a year earlier, I went to work at Delaware State in the sports information department. Though I initially had to travel more than an hour each week three days a week, it ended up being one of the neatest jobs I ever had, and one I stuck with until 1988 or 1989, despite the lengthy commute.
The image shown depicts a promotional flyer we created in the sports information department to advocate for All-America balloting for Taylor. I met Taylor a couple of times when he visited the sports information department offices, and he was a very quiet guy, but he spoke volumes every time he took the field. I don’t recall if one of those meetings was after we came out with the Time-like flyer, but even if it had been, I wouldn’t have had the foresight to ask him to sign one.
In all my years of watching college football, I’ve never seen another instance where an athlete was so clearly head-and-shoulders above his level of competition. Taylor was a wide receiver, but the Division 1AA Hornets, admittedly one of the powerhouse teams in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in the mid-1980s, were a running team first and foremost. And besides, even if we had been more inclined to the passing game, we would have been hard pressed to come up with a quarterback who could consistently get the ball to him.
When I came up with the idea of the look-alike Time magazine cover, I had to do a pretty serious sales job on school administrators, who were fearful that Time editors might somehow object. Ultimately, we prevailed in getting it done, due largely to the efforts of the sports information director at the time, Maxine Lewis. Like Taylor, she went on to bigger things, snagging a job with ABC Sports in New York City, including a stint working with legendary broadcaster Keith Jackson.
Eventually, I had to surrender those duties when the demands of being the editor of a weekly newspaper in northern Delaware became so great that it wasn’t feasible to drive down to Dover even once a week.
But as I noted above, I had a lot of fun on that job. I was the official scorer for the baseball team, and frequently traveled with the women’s basketball team, in addition to doing the routine things for the sports information department. I was the rare white guy on a campus of an historically black school, and took a lot of good-natured ribbing from the gals on the basketball team.
If anybody’s ever seen this Time flyer before today or have any other information about Taylor and some oddball collectibles, I’d appreciate if they let me know via the blog.
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A reader (Ken) commented about last week’s blog that detailed my concern over the omnipresent commercialization in Major League Baseball. Ken described himself as a baseball purist who hates the designated hitter, but noted that the purist in him doesn’t object to the “proliferation of sponsorships everywhere.”
He concedes that while he once loathed the rotating signs behind home plate, he’s actually found useful products and services from same. He also points out, quite fairly, I would add, that the advertisements on the fences can add color to the ballpark and at the same time hit the nostalgia buttons for the good old days.
I can’t take issue with most of what he said, though I’d stop well short of the part about finding useful products and services from the home plate Ad-O-Ramas, but I’m not a very good consumer anyway. He’s also right about some of the throwback advertising signs adding color in the outfield.
“As for ads on uniforms, it works for the most popular sport in the world: soccer – and it worked for my Little League team,” was Ken’s final observation.
For once, I am speechless.