Jim Taylor, 1927-2013

Blade sports writer took readers to game


Jim Taylor, whose clarity of eye and deft prose transported Blade readers to Super Bowls and college bowls, the World Series, heavyweight title bouts, and major golf matches, died Thursday in the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio Hospital. He was 85.

He had pneumonia, his wife, Jan, said. He had Alzheimer’s disease and for nearly four years lived in Parkcliffe Alzheimer’s Community.

Before that, Mr. Taylor’s wife took care of him for several years in their South Toledo home.

Mr. Taylor wrote a regular sports column, “Taylored Topics,” for much of his last 20 years at The Blade. He retired on May 31, 1990. He worked at the newspaper from 1963-65 and returned in 1967 after a yearlong stint covering pro football at the Detroit Free Press.

“He was a step above the rest of us,” said Chet Sullwold, a retired colleague who during his own long Blade career was executive sports editor and a sports writer.

Mr. Taylor’s last column on June 1, 1990, began: “I’ve followed the bouncing ball over white-striped meadows and the flat courts, through the swales, and hills, and sand for more than 40 years.

“It’s been a special experience in a world of special people,” he wrote. “Now it’s time to go.”

Dennis Horger, a retired colleague, said that Mr. Taylor was “the best pure writer” of his 37-year tenure at The Blade.

“His copy was immaculate,” Mr. Horger said. “He was very good at writing a story about an individual or a game story on the field. In addition to being informative, it was a pleasant read. Everything was exquisitely done.”

For several years, Mr. Taylor was the University of Toledo beat reporter. In 1971, The Blade published a book to mark the UT football team’s consecutive unbeaten seasons. A highlight of the book was Mr. Taylor’s coverage of that 35-game streak.

“He had a tremendous command of the English language,” Blade columnist Dave Hackenberg said. “He made it light. He made it fun. It was just delightful to read.”

Mr. Taylor covered golf’s major tournaments, Major League Baseball, and football, both college and pro. He wrote about prize fights and motor sports and the NCAA basketball tournament.

“He had the opportunity to cover some of the biggest events in the nation,” Mr. Hackenberg said. “To a lot of people, it looks like a lot of travel. To him, it was being where the action was.”

And he knew how to place readers courtside, ringside, or behind home plate.

“He had the knack of being a great observer,” Mr. Sullwold said, “so that a lot of times when you read Jim’s article from the golf course, whatever, he took you there. You were part of the audience, like really being there.”

Sports writers’ schedules then included duties in the office, Mr. Horger said, and Mr. Taylor also read stories, wrote headlines, and picked up the phone to take high school results.

“Everybody did a little bit of everything. He was exceptional at everything,” Mr. Horger said.

Mr. Taylor’s last column ranged over a career that began in 1949 at the former Dayton Journal Herald, which hired him as a new graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English. At first, he wrote high school sports and was ghost writer for a promotional contest the paper held.

He covered college sports — including the University of Dayton and Ohio State University — and the Cincinnati Reds and its 1961 National League championship.

But he also wrote about accidents, fires, and elections, Mr. Taylor wrote, adding, “Don’t be sitting at your desk in the sports department drinking a carton of chocolate milk at 10 p.m. fiddling with a lifeless typewriter.”

He recalled the stars and the characters; the UT Rockets’ first of three Tangerine Bowl trophies — “Christmas in Orlando, Fla. I’d never been away from the family at Christmas,” he wrote. “Lonely hours ... but a sense of being in on something big.”

He wrote of those he’d miss, the managers and coaches; his associates at The Blade.

“I’ve had the very best of it as you might imagine,” Mr. Taylor wrote. “I’ll never forget a best friend, Jim Talbott, saying as we waited for a foursome ahead of us to clear the green, ‘When we were young, we thought we had a million years.’

“We were only 30.

“Yes, it’s time.”

For 15 years in retirement, the Taylors spent winters in Florida, so that he could play golf year-round, his wife said.

He was more than skilled at the game, and friends enjoyed golfing with him despite the inevitable result.

“Jim used to beat the daylights out of all of us,” Mr. Horger said. “He was my favorite all-time golfing companion. He was just a man of great character and class. A true gentleman.”

James A. Taylor was born May 3, 1927, in Columbus, to Edna and James W. Taylor. He was 7 when his father died, his wife said. His mother had been a college professor, and the family moved to Greencastle, Ind., where she taught at DePauw University.

He was a 1944 graduate of Greencastle High School, where he played shortstop on the baseball team.

He was drafted after a year at DePauw and was in the Army Air Corps, stationed in Hawaii at the end of World War II. He played baseball on the Air Corps team, which beat the Marines, Navy, and Army, his wife said.

He returned to DePauw afterward and graduated in 1949. He later was a youth baseball coach for his sons’ teams in Toledo.

“He knew the game, and he taught things properly,” said Mr. Horger, who helped him coach, as did Mr. Hackenberg. “He had all the good attributes of a youth coach and none of the bad ones.”

Surviving are his wife, Jan, whom he married April 15, 1950; daughters, Linda Siders and Judi Burns; sons, Jim and Tom; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Walter Funeral Home, where visitation will begin at 1 p.m.

The family suggests tributes to Glendale Presbyterian Church, where he was a member; Parkcliffe Community; or the Alzheimer’s Association of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.