Do you ever find yourself looking around for multipod role models and coming up short? Sure, we hear about Pythagoras, Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander Graham Bell, and George Washington Carver, but what about someone we could meet today?
What about an electrical engineer who was also a Major League baseball player who played on winning teams in two World Series, and who is also a medical doctor?
If you’re lucky enough, you might just get to meet this incredible man of our own time – Dr. Ron Taylor. And if you don’t, be sure to check out Ron Taylor: Dr. Baseball – a short documentary about his life that premieres this autumn.
Meeting Dr. Baseball
I first learned about this notable multipotentialite from a Canadian friend of mine who was his patient. She told me she’d had no idea how famous he was among baseball fans; as far as she was concerned, he was just her excellent and very nice doctor.
She worked in a Canadian school and had to get a note from him for some sick leave. However, after turning in the note, she noticed on her next pay statement that no sick days had been docked from her record. When she went to see the administrator at her school to find out why, he told her that it was because he had not submitted the form.
She asked why, and he pulled the note out of his desk drawer, asking, “Do you have any idea how much this is worth?” He had recognized Taylor as not only my friend’s doctor, but also as a baseball player who had not allowed a single hit during his seven innings pitched in four World Series relief appearances.
A Passion for Learning
Taylor started playing baseball at the age of eight. He was a prodigy pitcher. Because he was a lefty, his mother was concerned he would have cardiovascular ailments if he pitched with his left hand, so she made him learn to pitch right-handed by tying his left hand behind his back.
While he was still in school, Taylor was offered a contract with the Cleveland Indians but, after the 1956 season, he decided he wanted to finish high school and then attend the University of Toronto to earn an engineering degree.
Although he was offered an education in Cleveland in order to keep training with the team, he chose to return to Canada for his education. He negotiated that he would only pitch during the summer, missing spring training while completing his education.
After graduating at the top of his class of engineers at the University of Toronto in 1961, Taylor played ball. During his career he pitched for the Cleveland Indians, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the New York Mets, working in the off-seasons as an electrical engineer. He said, “In New York, I really found a home. I worked hard and I pitched well.”
Career Number Three
Along the way, Taylor joined several major league players on a tour of military hospitals in Guam, Okinawa, the Philippines, and Saigon. Here he met doctors and talked with them about their work. This was perhaps the spark that led him to apply to medical school when his pitching career finished when he was thirty-four.
Thirty-four-year-old Taylor went to see the dean at the University of Toronto medical school. Noting that Taylor has graduated from engineering school in 1961, the dean asked what he had been doing for the past eleven years. When Taylor responded that he had been playing Major League Baseball, the dean responded, “What’s that?”
Taylor was then told that the medical school rarely accepted people over the age of thirty, because they didn’t “want people changing careers.” When the university officials looked at Taylor’s grades, they told him that if he had been twenty-five, he would have been accepted.
Instead, they told him he had to go back and take pre-med courses before applying. They told him that if he got similar grades in organic chemistry and microbiology to the grades he got all of those years ago in engineering, they would consider him. They gave him 50-50 odds on his acceptance.
That was good enough for Taylor, so he persevered, taking classes from 8am to 5pm, sleeping from 5pm until 9pm, and then studying for twelve hours through the night until 7am. Not surprisingly, Taylor excelled academically and, with great references including one from the Mets president, he was finally accepted.
Taylor graduated from medical school in 1977. In 1979 he became the team doctor for the Toronto Blue Jays and he began a general medical practice in Toronto. This is where my friend met him as her physician.
Lessons from a Multi-Career Life
What can we, as multipods, learn from Dr. Taylor’s multi-career life? I believe there’s more to learn from him than can be covered in one blog post, but here are a few of the things his story has taught me.
- Hard work is important in any career.
- Negotiate for what you want in your life.
- It’s not too late to start a new career, even if others tell you it is.
- It is possible to excel in more than one field.
- It is possible be world class in one area and to do other things too.
To find out more about the life of this incredible multipotentialite, be sure to watch out for the documentary, Ron Taylor: Dr. Baseball.
What other present-day multipotentialites have you come across? How have their stories inspired you?
Dr. Brenda Scott is a fine art photographer, writer, and cellist. Originally trained as a musician and organologist, she has worked as a curator of a small musical instrument museum and her Stagville: Black & White exhibit has been displayed at the North Carolina Museum of History and is currently on tour. She enjoys teaching and holds degrees from the University of Oxford, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Auburn University, and the Academy of Art University. View her work at brendascottarts.com or follow her on Twitter @brendascottarts.