Mr. Taylor was born April 3, 1939 in Metropolis. He was a 1957 graduate of Metropolis Community High School and received his bachelor of science degree and master’s degree from Murray State University. Hawk enjoyed a 14-year career in professional baseball, nine and one-half of those years were spent in the Major Leagues. He was a highly sought after high school prospect and signed his first professional contract with the Milwaukee Brave for a near record sum at the time, becoming one of baseball’s first “Bonus Babies.”
After graduating from high school, he was sent directly to the major leagues, joining the Braves on the road at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, N.Y. The 1957 Milwaukee Braves went on to defeat the New York Yankees and become World Series champions. In addition to winning a World Series ring, Hawk’s teammates from the 1957 team included Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews and Red Schoendienst. Hawk’s notable roommates during his years with the Braves included Joe Torre and Bob Uecker. He passed away on the 55th anniversary of his major League debut. His professional career was briefly interrupted in 1961 when he served in the U.S. Army during the Berlin crisis. Hawk was traded to the New York Mets in 1964 and played for the Mets from 1964 through 1967. His Mets career was highlighted by hitting the first ever pinch hit grand slam homerun in Mets history, going 5 for 5 in a game against the Houston Astros, hitting a three run home run off Sandy Koufax, playing left field for the Mets when Jim Bunning threw his perfect game and catching Tom Seaver’s first professional game.
He was traded to the California Angels in July 1967 and remained in the Angel organization until the end of the 1968 season. He was selected in the Kansas City Royal expansion draft in December 1968 where he played through 1970. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox in 1971 and was playing for the Louisville Colonels when a back injury prematurely ended his career.
After his playing days ended, Hawk enjoyed coaching stints at Murray State University, Lambuth College and Paducah Community College.
Hawk was given his nickname as a youngster after his favorite movie serial, Hawk of the Wilderness. His favorite player and “hero” was Ted Williams, and he proudly owned many Ted Williams endorsed products. Hawk was a gun enthusiast and an avid collector. He lived life to its fullest and had many passions. They included hunting, fishing and hiking, enjoying the outdoors and entertaining friends/family on the Taylor pontoon. In addition to just about any baseball field, his favorite places included Kentucky Lake and his beloved gravel pit, affectionately known as “Hawk Lake.”
Hawk’s love for baseball and the outdoors was only rivaled by his love of music. He enjoyed all types of music but listening to his wife, Marie, play the piano was at the top of his list. He frequently attended MSU Music Department Concerts, the Paducah Symphony, as well as enjoying opera, especially Wagner and Puccini.
He loved to talk baseball and over the years entertained countless number of baseball fans with stories from his playing days. He continued receiving autograph requests through the mail.
Hawk was a loving son, husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, nephew, friend, and coach, but he took special delight in his two grandsons. He was a very caring, generous, hospitable and genuine person who made all those around him feel special.
Survivors include his loving and devoted wife of 49 years, Marie Holifield Taylor; two sons, Bruce Carter Taylor of Murray and Samuel Vance Taylor and special friend, Dee Dee Diefenbach of Puryear, Tenn; two grandsons, Robert Devin Taylor and Jacob Carter Taylor of Summerville, S.C.; three sisters, Sue Barfield and husband Charles and Carol Taylor, all of Metropolis, and Jo Ellen Taylor of Las Vegas, Nev.; one brother, John “Bubber” Taylor of Metropolis; and several cousins, nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Vance “Flop” and Velma Taylor of Metropolis.
Visitation was held Saturday, June 16 at First United Methodist Church in Murray, from 2-4 p.m. with the service following. Everyone was invited to a reception at the Robert O. Miller Conference Center, 201 S. Fourth St.
Memorials may be made to the Marie Holifield Taylor Scholarship — make the check out to MSU Foundation, Marie Holifield Taylor in the memo; mail to MSU Office of Development, 106 Development Center, Murray, KY 42071; or Calloway County and Murray High School Baseball programs, c/o US Bank, 1111 Main St., Murray, KY 42071.
J.H. Churchill Funeral Home of Murray was in charge of arrangements.