The greatest athlete you've (probably) never heard of
February 26, 2005 4:41 AM   Subscribe

Marshall W. "Major" Taylor. Bigger than Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods put together. He faced racism, wouldn't race on Sunday due to his strong religious convictions, and died forgotten. The Major Taylor Society has more info. A velodrome is named after him (one of only 12 in the USA) as well as several bicycle clubs. His thoughts on The Value of Good Habits and Clean Living is an interesting read.
posted by fixedgear (12 comments total)
And before someone beats me to it:

MetaFilter: Don't be a pie biter.
posted by fixedgear at 4:41 AM on February 26, 2005

> Clean living is the cardinal principle in the lives of the world's greatest athletes,
> as the phenomenal performances of these outstanding characters will
> obviously show....In baseball the late Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson,
> Tyrus Cobb, and the "King of Swat" Babe Ruth, are splendid examples

I'll be happy second Taylor's vote for clean living, but I don't think I'd pick the Babe as a splendid example of a jock who got to the top that way.
posted by jfuller at 5:05 AM on February 26, 2005

i wonder what hunter s thompson would have said about clean living ...
posted by pyramid termite at 5:49 AM on February 26, 2005

Ha! It was the phrase "don't be a pie biter" that compelled me to comment in this thread.
posted by nthdegx at 6:19 AM on February 26, 2005

Velotastic! Thanks, fixedgear.
posted by carter at 6:51 AM on February 26, 2005

I don't think Taylor realized just how racist Ty Cobb was.
posted by lobstah at 7:09 AM on February 26, 2005

There is also a club/team in Los Angeles called Major Motion. Great urban program, good about getting kids out on bikes in a place where it doesn't happen very often. Some pretty good riders have come out of the program - Raasan Bahaati for example.
posted by chuke at 7:17 AM on February 26, 2005

Taylor's Good Habits and Clean Living were in contrast to another track star of the day, Arthur A. "Zimmy" Zimmerman. Zimmy was purported to exist on fine wine and cigars, and could still win races on three hours' sleep.

He spun low gears at incredibly cadences, and was known for winning races by sprinting from the back of the pack.
posted by scruss at 7:49 AM on February 26, 2005

Thanks for the link. I had no idea there were so few US velodromes. We would regularly go to watch bicycle races at the Marymoor Velodrome outside Seattle.
posted by jessamyn at 10:08 AM on February 26, 2005

since reading the book "hearts of lions" by peter nye as a young adult, i have always thought of major taylor as one of the greatest. athletes. eva. many people don't realize just how big cycling was in america during the first half of the twentieth century. nearly every major(and quite a few minor) cities had velodromes that would be packed for days on end as athletes battled in grueling multi-day races. major was a character, that's for sure...but he was also a very caring and generous man from what i've read. he's a bit of a lost hero, i only wish more people knew of what he achieved...i always figured i'd see a movie based on his life at some point. i'm still waiting. ant (alternative needs transportation) bicycles has a major taylor "replica" bike that is beautiful. check it out at
posted by cloudstastemetallic at 11:36 AM on February 26, 2005

I don't think I'd pick the Babe as a splendid example of a jock who got to the top that way.

"This is Babe Ruth, the Sultan of Swat, the Bambino, I smoke twenty-five God damn cuban cigars a day. I had meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I drank beer all day, every day. I fucked eighteen prostitutes a night! 'course, I'm dead now. I'm up here in heaven. Lou Gehrig is up here with me. God love Lou Gehrig. Jesus Christ, poor Lou Gehrig. Died of Lou Gehrig's disease. How the hell did he not see that coming? You know. We used to tell him, Lou, there's a disease with your name all over it, pal! There ain't no Babe Ruth disease, I'll tell you that much right now. Have a hot dog and a Hummer. Go ahead, it's on me." -Denis Leary
posted by jonmc at 3:48 PM on February 26, 2005

When I went to Indiana University, one of the teams in the Little 500 was called I.M.O. Major Taylor. (I.M.O. = In Memory Of). I never knew who he was until now.
posted by SisterHavana at 4:24 PM on February 26, 2005

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