Book of the Month – Major Taylor

by Brian Mullin on November 3, 2014

Major Taylor
The Inspiring Story of a Black Cyclist and the Men Who Helped Him Achieve Worldwide Fame

In
the wake of the Tour de France’s fallen heroes, the story of one of
history’s most legendary cyclists provides a much-needed antidote. In
1907 the world’s most popular athlete was not Cy Young or Ty Cobb.
Rather, he was a black bicycle racer named “Major” Taylor.

In his
day, Taylor became a spiritual and athletic idol. He was the fastest man
in America and a champion who prevailed over unspeakable cruelty. The
men who aided him were among the most colorful to emerge from the era.
When hotel and restaurant operators denied Taylor food and lodgings,
forcing him to sleep in horse stables and to race hungry, there was a
benevolent racer-turned-trainer named Birdie Munger, who took Taylor
under his wing and into his home. Then along came Arthur Zimmerman, an
internationally famous bike racer, who gently mentored Taylor when some
riders drew the color line and refused to race against him. Taylor’s
manager, pugnacious Irishman and famed Broadway producer William Brady,
stood up for him when track owners tried barring him from competition.
From the Old World came a rakishly handsome, mustachioed sports promoter
named Victor Breyer, who lured Taylor overseas for a dramatic,
Seabiscuit versus War Admiral–like match race that would be widely
remembered a quarter century later.

With a foreword by World
Champion and three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, this
spellbinding saga of fortitude, grace, forgiveness, and a man’s
unyielding will to win against the greatest of odds is sure to become a
classic that will be enjoyed by everyone.

Grams Thoughts => A
very fascinating book about a pre-automobile time when a great deal of
the population rode bicycles. Thousands of people attended bike races at
dirt, wooden and concrete ovals, and the racers were considered
superstars. The biggest star at the time was Marshall Walter “Major”
Taylor, a black athlete in a country that was still decidedly racist,
especially in the south and the treatment he received on and off the
track was terrible. He was a very religious man and refused to race on
Sundays, making competition even more difficult. He pious virtues helped
him deal with the brutal racism he encountered:”Life is too short for
any man to hold bitterness in his heart.” He was a world champion and
multiple record holder, especially in the coveted 1 mile race, and even
though he was the highest paid athlete at the time he, unfortunately,
died broke and alone.

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