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Sec Taylor

Sec Taylor: Always "Sittin' In With the Athletes"

Sec Taylor wasn't always Sec Taylor.

The stadium. And the person, too.

Principal Park used to be known as Sec Taylor Stadium, which used to be known as Pioneer Memorial Stadium.

Sec Taylor was really Garner W. Taylor, who was really Willis Garner Taylor.

What's in a name? Plenty, it seems.

Principal Park is located where the Des Moines Bruins played the first game at Pioneer Memorial Stadium, on June 20, 1947. On Sept. 2, 1959, the stadium was renamed for longtime Des Moines Register sports editor Sec Taylor. When the new facility was built on the same site in 1992, it kept the name Sec Taylor Stadium. And on Aug. 5, 2004, the name changed to Principal Park.

But for more than 40 years, millions of fans flocked to Sec Taylor Stadium, with most not knowing much about the man behind the name.

Sec Taylor was the sports editor of the Register from 1914 until his death in 1965. He was born Willis Garner Taylor in Wichita, Kan., but always signed his name Garner W. Taylor. He started his newspaper career in 1904 as a general reporter with the Wichita Beacon, and landed the baseball beat in 1909. After one season, he quit to become the club's secretary - a job similar to the general manager today. A year later, he became the secretary of the baseball team in St. Joseph, Mo., with the understanding he could write for the paper in the offseason. He started out using the byline W. Garner Taylor, but the editor decreed a change to Sec (short for secretary) Taylor, to identify his connection with the ball club.

   
   
  Sec Taylor with Los Angeles Dodger Gil Hodges in 1961.  

Sec Taylor came to the Register in 1914. His job as a sportswriter paid $22 a week. He earned extra money writing for other papers, as the official scorer for the Western League, and officiating high school and college sports.

In the early 1920s, he began writing his "Sittin' In With the Athletes" column and soon became respected on the national stage, especially for his baseball knowledge. It was under his guidance that the Register sports section became recognized as one of the best in the country. He also was instrumental in bringing baseball back to Des Moines after World War II.

In 1959, when the city council decided to rename the stadium in honor of Sec Taylor, Gov. Herschel Loveless said: "Sec is respected and loved throughout the world. We need more men like him. He's done so much for sports." Mayor Charles F. Iles said: "People all over the country know and love Sec. He has brought fame and recognition to this city with his fair, unbiased reporting."

Sec Taylor continued his work at the Register until his death on Feb. 26 1965, at age 78, in a Miami hotel room, shortly after his arrival to start reporting on spring training.

   
   
  Sec Taylor at Sec Taylor Stadium in 1959.  

Register columnist Maury White - who worked with Sec Taylor for years and whose articles provided much of the material for this piece - described his colleague as a "soft-spoken, almost painfully courteous old-style gentleman" whose "wisdom, fairness and opinions were widely respected across this vast land.... His prose was never fanciful and seldom beautiful, but few matched him for bread-and-butter reporting or great contacts."

Sec Taylor Stadium was without professional baseball from 1962-68, until Triple-A baseball came to Des Moines in 1969. When talk of building a new stadium surfaced years later, White wrote in 1990: "The possibility looms that, for the first time since September of 1959, the home of professional baseball will no longer be named in honor of the late Garner W. "Sec" Taylor. If there was some way of contacting him, my guess is Sec wouldn't be horrified if there was a change....

"I guarantee you Sec was ecstatic when the stadium was renamed in his honor. I'm almost as positive he wouldn't feel insulted if a new one wasn't."

The stadium isn't new. Just the name. Sec Taylor Field at Principal Park.