NEW YORK (AP) — Terry R. Taylor, The Associated Press’ first female sports editor, who led the department from 1992 to 2013, died Tuesday. She was 71 years old.
Retired AP sports reporter Ben Walker worked with Taylor during his tenure. Here’s what he remembers.
She would fly into the office like a comet. Everyone immediately stood up at their desks, fingers on the keyboard. Suddenly, it was kickoff time at AP Sports, even before Terry Taylor barked, “What’s cooking?”
And that 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, can he roar. She became a dynamic force in the world of journalism, the first female sports editor at The Associated Press at a time when women were rare in the press box or in such positions of power.
I remember the first time she went to Fenway Park in the early 90s, when she was hosting a conference of sports media executives in Boston. As we stood behind the batting cage before the game, the senior guard motioned to me. He walked over and whispered, “She knows she can’t go on the field now, doesn’t she?” However, TRT overheard him. Without pausing, she said, “Oh, I thought I’d go out and take some batting practice.”
The fact is that she wanted to be at the center of everything regarding the AP telegram.
I’ve worked side by side with Terry for over 30 years, and she always wanted to have a big story on her screen…the Super Bowl coming down to the last minute, the Tiger Woods scandal, the MLB attack. Not just to make casual suggestions, but to actually edit line by line as events unfolded. 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 often slept on the couch at home instead of the bed because it was closer to the phone, just in the box.
Funny thing about her, too: If she completely rewrote a story and got a lot of air time in the Boston Globe or Los Angeles Times, Terry gave the writer full support. If a senior official criticized a story she was working on, she took full blame. I can’t remember her ever taking credit for anything… well, maybe for suggesting that my wife, Ginger, and I try the meatballs at Patsy’s, the restaurant across the street from her apartment in New York.
We lived two doors down from her, we were both on the top floor. Some nights in the early 80s, after our night shifts, I would walk across the roof and come down to see her. She made the best omelets, and over sips of red rose tea, we would stay up until 4 a.m. talking about work and how to get better.
Not that she needed much in that area. When I first worked with her in the AP office in her hometown of Philadelphia in 1981, our office was keeping track of goal scorers, penalty kicks, shots for the Hershey Bears minor league hockey team. After each period, a person would call from the arena with information, and TRT would write it down. She insisted on doing it herself because it would go straight to the national sports news and she wanted it to be accurate.
Hershey’s star back then was Lou Franceschetti. Every time TRT took the agate, she had media guide Medvjeda in her lap. And she double-checked his name every time. She told me, yes, she knows how to spell it, but she wanted to be sure.
In 2013, when TRT retired, I tracked down Lou Franceschetti and told him the story. He jokingly captioned the awesome pic, saying “Thanks for always spelling my name correctly.” She roared!
Years later, a young writer from Houston stopped me at the World Championships in Philly, said he heard I was working closely with TRT and wanted to ask a question.
“I heard that Terry Taylor…” he began, eyes wide, and I politely stopped him. I just said, “Whatever you’ve heard is true. She was mostly this, she was mostly that, she was mostly everything.”
I have never seen anyone work harder or longer, care more or command more respect. Or cause even more fear.
There are many AP writers who still shudder at the echo of her admonition “that lead could choke a horse!” Or her signature “ent-ent” sneer – if you’ve ever heard it, you’ve never forgotten it and you’re still emulating it. But those same writers kept her notes of praise for decades…a simple “Nice” could keep you glowing for a month.
When I think of TRT, I will always think of volume. Her work, her impact, her impact and of course her voice. I will 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 to leave the press box… I wrote the lead role, TRT did the editing. As we were walking out, I asked if she had ever visited Monument Park, and she said no. So I asked the security guard and he said go ahead.
The pitch was quiet and dimly lit as the cleaning crew cleaned the bleachers. We wandered by the plaques of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and others on our own. She read the inscriptions quietly and then said, “There must be a lot of great people here.”
I remember thinking, yes, TRT, and I’m standing next to one of them.
AP Sports: https://apnews.com/sports
Ben Walker, The Associated Press