NEW YORK (AP) — Terry R. Taylor, the first female sports editor at The Associated Press who ran the department from 1992-2013, died Tuesday. She was 71.
Retired AP Sports Writer Ben Walker worked with Taylor throughout her tenure. Here’s what he remembers.
She’d come blazing into the office like a comet. Right away, everyone sat up straighter at their desk, fingers poised on keyboards. All of a sudden, it was go time at AP Sports, even before Terry Taylor barked, “What’s cookin’?”
And that was on a quiet Tuesday morning when absolutely nothing was happening.
She was universally known as TRT — those were her initials, though few knew her middle name was Rosalind — but TNT was more accurate. At 5-foot-nothing and 100 pounds, wow, could she roar. She became a dynamic force in the world of journalism, the first woman sports editor at The Associated Press at a time when women were rare in the press box or such positions of power.
I remember the first time she went to Fenway Park in the early ’90s, she was heading a conference of sports media executives in Boston. As we stood behind the batting cage before the game, an older guard signaled to me. He came over and whispered, “She knows she’s not allowed to go on the field now, right?” TRT, however, overheard him. Without a pause, she matter-of-factly said, “Oh, I thought I’d go out and pitch a little batting practice.”
Fact is, she wanted to be in the middle of everything when it came to the AP wire.
I worked side-by-side with Terry for over 30 years, and she always wanted to have the big story on her screen … a Super Bowl coming down to the final minute, a Tiger Woods scandal, the MLB strike. Not to just make casual suggestions, but to do the actual line-by-line editing as events were unfolding. It was electric to watch her in motion, and she was always plugged in, often in the office at least six days a week and frequently sleeping on a couch at home, rather than her bed, because it was closer to the phone, just in case.
Funny thing about her, too: If she totally rewrote a story and it got a lot of play in The Boston Globe or Los Angeles Times, Terry gave full props to the writer. If a higher-up criticized a story she handled, she took full blame. I can’t ever recall her taking credit for anything … well, maybe for suggesting my wife, Ginger, and I try the meatballs at Patsy’s, a restaurant across the street from her apartment in New York City.
We lived two doors down from her, both our places on the top floor. Some nights in the early ’80s, after our night shifts, I would walk across the roof and drop down to see her. She made the best omelettes, and over sips of Red Rose tea, we’d stay up till 4 a.m. talking about the business and how to get better.
Not that she needed much in that area. When I first worked with her at the AP bureau in her hometown of Philadelphia in 1981, our office handled the agate — the goal scorers, penalties, shots — for the Hershey Bears minor league hockey team. A person would call from the arena after each period with the info, and TRT would type it in. She insisted on doing it herself because it would go straight on the national sports wire and she wanted it to be accurate.
The star Hershey player then was Lou Franceschetti. Every time TRT took the agate, she had a Bears media guide in her lap. And every time, she double-checked his name. She told me, yes, she knew how to spell it, but wanted to be sure.
In 2013, when TRT retired, I tracked down Lou Franceschetti and told him the story. He playfully signed a glossy picture to her, saying “Thanks for always spelling my name right.” She howled!
Years later, a young writer from Houston stopped me at the World Series in Philly, said he’d heard that I worked closely with TRT and wanted to ask a question.
“I heard that Terry Taylor …” he started, his eyes widening, and I politely stopped him. I just said, “Whatever you’ve heard, it’s true. She was the most this, she was the most that, she was the most everything.”
I never saw someone work harder or longer, care more or command more respect. Or strike more fear.
There are plenty of AP writers who continue to cringe at the echo of her admonishing “that lead could choke a horse!” Or her signature “ent-ent” of disdain — if you ever heard it, you never forgot it, and you still imitate it. But those same writers have saved for decades her notes of praise … a simple “Nice” could make you beam for a month.
When I think of TRT, I’ll always think of volume. Her work, her impact, her influence and, of course, her voice. I’ll also remember a special night at the old Yankee Stadium, a place she loved.
It was about 3 a.m. after the Yankees had gone 12 innings to beat Arizona in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series. We were the last ones out of the press box … I had written the main lead, TRT had done the edit. As we were walking out, I wondered whether she’d ever visited Monument Park, and she said no. So I asked a security guard and he said go ahead.
The ballpark was silent and half-lit as the cleaning crew swept the stands. Alone, we wandered past the plaques of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and more. She quietly read the inscriptions and then said, “There sure are a lot of greats out here.”
I remember thinking, yep, TRT, and I’m standing next to one of them.
AP Sports: https://apnews.com/sports