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The 1970 Topps Tony Taylor baseball card is not shooting straight with you.

Not completely.

And not right up front.

Now, don’t get me wrong …

It’s a gorgeous card, a tremendous card.

In fact, when you first stumble across this card, it might take your breath away, for just a beat.

Hailing from an era when hatless coifs, bad airbrush jobs, silly poses, and dingy photos abound, this beauty sticks out like John Kruk “in” the batting box against Randy Johnson.

Taylor stands in front of a bright bank of Philadelphia Phillies hats and wooden baseball bats across a wide spectrum of color tones, having just selected a hunk of lumber to accompany him on his next trip to the plate. The design is clean, and the photo is crisp enough to make even the ancient dugout phone in the background seem more contemporary, somehow.

There is a lot happening in the picture, to be sure, but there is so much pure baseball going on that you just want to stare at it for hours.

But there’s something else going on here, too.

1970 Topps Tony Taylor

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Tony Taylor and Topps seem to be trying to tell you something about the player himself. Take another look and you’ll see …

Taylor has a death grip on his bat, and it couldn’t break free even if it wanted to.

It doesn’t even really matter how Taylor grabs a bat, because he can fling it around using whatever haphazard grip he ends up with.

Taylor is kind of hulked forward a bit, like he’s ready to step into a club-swing to take care of whatever troubles might be emerging in front of him.

Taylor’s left arm hangs to his side, almost out of frame, but you can see that he has some swole in that bicep. 

Taylor wears a batting glove on his left hand, ready for some sting.

Taylor’s hat is pushed back on his head, granting the sun full access to the scowl that’s developing on his face. He wants to know if you’re seriously pointing that blinkety-blank camera at him.

Viewed in one shot, especially the first shot, and maybe with a bit of a squint — this is the card of a slugger. The bookend match for card #(40) of teammate Richie Allen.

1970 Topps Rich Allen

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But then you notice … Taylor’s position is listed as “2B-3B.”

Today’s third basemen might hit dingers at a decent pace,  but in the late 1960s and early 1970s — B.S., or Before Schmitty — home runs weren’t the name of the game at the Hot Corner. And second basemen?

They were just middle infielders (unless they were Joe Morgan or Davey Johnson or Bobby Grich or Davey Lopes or …).

The point is, no power-hitting second or third baseman was likely to sneak through nearly 50 years on the front of a card this good-looking without said cardboard becoming a classic. And, the number of Tony Taylor master collection want lists floating around out there is probably fairly small as we near the end of another decade.

He’s just not a legend in the same way that Mike Schmidt or Brien Taylor or Oscar Gamble is a legend.

In fact, unless you grew up following the Phillies or were a pretty hardcore baseball fan up through the middle 1970s, well, you might not even really know who Tony Taylor is.

But that doesn’t mean Taylor isn’t worth learning about, because he is.

So you flip the card over, where you learn that, by 1970, Taylor had already logged enough Major League (and minor league) service time to make his stats box big and crowded. So expansive was his record, in fact, that Topps deprived collectors of one of those nifty 1970 cartoon just to fit in all of Tony’s good stuff.

1970 Topps Tony Taylor (back)

At that point, with the 1969 season in the bag, that good stuff included more than 1600 hits and north of 800 runs in 1600+ games spread across 12 seasons. Taylor had also accumulated 229 doubles and 66 triples, which spoke to his speed. So does the blurb at the top of the card:

Leader of 2 loops in Triples, Tony also led his league with 38 Stolen Bases in 1955. 1st on Phils with 19 swipes in 1969.

And if we cruise over to his Baseball Reference page, we can see that, eventually, those legs wrought 234 steals over the course of 19 Big League seasons. His other career totals include 298 doubles, 86 triples, 1005 runs, and 2007 hits.

All of that is pretty amazing when you consider that he began his professional career at the age of 18 in 1954 when the New York Giants signed him and sent him down to the Texas City/Thibodaux Pilots of the old Evangeline League. And that he spent three more years after that without a sniff of the Majors.

The big break came in December of 1957, though, when the Chicago Cubs picked Taylor in the Rule 5 Draft. That meant they had to keep him on the roster all season long in 1958 or send him back to the (then-San Francisco) Giants.

The Cubs didn’t just stick Taylor in a dark corner of the dugout that summer, however. Instead, manager Bob Sheffing handed him the starting second base job, and the 22-year-old responded with 21 steals and 63 runs to bolster a weak .235 batting average. The youngster also showed a decent eye at the plate by drawing 40 walks, and he played at roughly league-level in the field.

Taylor held onto his job in 1959 and improved his numbers pretty much across the board. He entered 1960 as a young veteran with plenty of good years ahead of him — and the Philadelphia Phillies took notice.

1960 Topps Tony Taylor

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On May 13, the Phils sent Ed Bouchee and Don Cardwell to the Cubs in exchange for the speedy middle infielder.

In Philly, Taylor became an All-Star (in 1960) and a key part of the club that would eventually break the city’s heart with a late collapse in 1964. A year before that, Taylor had logged career highs with 102 runs and 10 triples, adding 23 steals for good measure. That performance earned him a few MVP votes.

He plugged away for the Phils for parts of 12 years until a trade sent him to the Detroit Tigers for Carl Cavanaugh and Michael Fremuth on June 12, 1971. At that point, Taylor was 35 years old but had hit a career-best (for a full season) .301 in 1970. Still, with little glitz and an aging body, he wasn’t the type of player you build a team around, so no one was surprised when his playing time dipped to 55 games in the Motor City that summer (he played in 91 total contests between the two clubs).

In 1972,  Taylor made the most of his 78 games by batting .303 but slid all the way to .229 in 1973.

After the Tigers released him that December, Philadelphia decided to take another shot at their former infielder.

Taylor found a little-known offshoot from the fountain of youth in a corner of the Phils’ clubhouse and batted .328 in 62 appearances in 1974. That performance brought him a bump in playing time to 79 games in 1975, and he capped his career by hitting .261 over 26 plate appearances for the Bicentennial Phillies in 1976.

When Philadelphia released Taylor in November of that year, his 19-year run in the Big Leagues was done.

1976 Topps Tony Taylor

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It was a really good run, though, and a long one. And we might have missed it — or forgotten about it — if not for that wonderful 1970 Topps card.

You know the one, right?

It’s the one where Tony Taylor is doing his slugger-at-the-rack impression.

Oh, yeah — about that.

Taylor ended up with 75 home runs, including a career-best of nine in 1970.

Maybe he felt that spike coming when Topps asked him to stop for the camera the year before. Or maybe the photographer annoyed him to such a degree that a Hulk-sized surge of anger poured over him and infused his muscles with a 34-year-old burst of power.

Whatever the case, Tony Taylor looked right at home surrounded in the baseball lumber, and he knew how to coax some hits out of those bats.

Power or not.

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