When pondering the most unbreakable
record in baseball history, the first things that may come to mind are Cy Young’s 511 career victories, Joe
DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak, and Rickey Henderson’s 1,406 career stolen bases. Seldom, if ever, does anyone point out Jack Taylor’s string of 187 consecutive complete games, when
in fact, there is no chance it will ever be approached.
John W. Taylor was born on
14, 1874 in New Straitsville, OH. He began his major league career
as a 24-year-old in 1898 with the National League’s Chicago Cubs and was an immediate success, going 5-0 with a 2.20
Although he compiled a losing
record over the next two seasons (a combined 28-38), Taylor solidified his reputation
as an innings eater, completing 64 of his 65 starts. On June 20, 1901, he pitched a complete game, which began an impressive streak that lasted
for over five years. Taylor would
go just 13-19 that season, but better times were still to come.
In 1902, Taylor
had the best season of his career, posting a 23-11 record and leading the NL with a microscopic 1.33 ERA. He followed that up with another 20 win season in 1903 (21-14), but found himself in the midst of controversy
following the season.
In October 1903, the
Cubs and White Sox arranged for an exhibition which would become known as the “City Series.” Taylor, the Cubs ace, started and won the first game 11-0,
but lost his next three starts which left the series tied at seven games apiece.
White Sox owner Charles Comiskey
hoped to continue the series, but Cubs owner Jim Hart would not. Hart believed
that Taylor had thrown his last three starts and refused to complete the exhibition
series. Two months later, Taylor
was dealt with Larry McLean to the St. Louis Cardinals for Mike O’Neill and future Hall of Famer Mordecai “Three
pitched well for the Cardinals in 1904, going 20-19 with a 2.22 ERA and a major league record 39 complete games, but the “City
Series” controversy surfaced again during his first visit to Chicago. In response to heckling fans, Taylor reportedly
blurted out “Why should I have won? I got $100 from Hart for winning, and
$500 for losing.”
After word of that statement
reached Hart, he went public with his accusation for the first time. The games’
ruling body, the National Commission, failed to act, however, because the games in question were exhibitions, not league sanction
contests. The Commission also feared the negative publicity an inquiry would
draw, and hoped the story would simply go away. It wouldn’t.
In July 1904, a rumor began
to spread that Taylor tanked a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. National League president Garry Herrmann even went so far as to say that Taylor
was “not an honest player”. When Taylor
was questioned by the Commission about his behavior during the game in question, he said that he had been out drinking the
night before the game and attributed his poor pitching to a hangover. He was
fined $300 for bad conduct.
remained in St. Louis for the 1905 season, but went just 15-21. Following the
season, he was again accused of throwing games in a “City Series”, this time in the Cardinals – Browns affair. The Cardinals however, did not act on the accusation and Taylor
remained with the team until July in 1906, when he was dealt back to the Cubs. By
this time, Jim Hart had sold his stake in the team.
Despite all of the controversy,
Taylor kept starting and finishing games.
On August 9, 1906, Taylor
defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers 5-3. It was his 187th consecutive complete game. Four days later those same Dodgers would knock him out of the game in the third inning,
ending one of sport's most impressive streaks. During the course of the streak,
he went the distance during an 18 inning and 19 inning game and pitched both ends of a doubleheader.
finished the 1906 season with a 20-12 record (12-3 with the Cubs) and 1.99 ERA. He
returned to the Cubs in 1907 for one final big league season, fashioning a 7-5 mark and 3.29 ERA before being released. He would continue to pitch in the minor leagues for several more years before retiring.
In his big league career, Taylor
went 152-139 with a 2.66 ERA. He completed 278 of his 286 starts. Jack Taylor
returned to his native Ohio following his playing days, and on March 4, 1938, he died at the age of 63.