History of Taylor Day

by Rob Jevens

Chicago is one of the world's most amusing cities. There are some that would argue that it's THE most amusing city. The dialogue around this point is vast... but suffice it to say, there are factors that support the argument. Chicago's residents and their voracious appetite for fun, the city's year-round events, sports, restaurants, nightlife, shopping, culture, arts and entertainment. Even its "small-town" landscape plays a role. The city is a kaleidoscope of neighborhoods and people encompassing every religious, ethnic, racial, and economic class and for its citizens, the common interest that unites them together, is their fondness for the city's many pastimes. When speaking of pastimes and Chicago, there are few things more celebrated than baseball and summer parties.

Nick and Taylor Freeman

Nick and Taylor Freeman

In the summer of 1996, in nearby St. Louis, one of Chicago's most anticipated pastimes was born. What started as a simple baseball game with friends, for its growing legion of fans, is becoming one of Chicago's newest cultural phenomena. Taylor Day..."One of the greatest days you'll never remember."

Origins

For those that know Taylor well, they know he is no stranger to fun and making friends. At age 26, while living in St. Louis, Taylor was committed to those pursuits when he decided to gather a few of his Diagraph Corporation co-workers for a Cardinals baseball game.

Not knowing what the future had in store, Taylor didn't think to name the event that first year. He simply selected a mid-season game then extended 20 invitations to his favorite co-workers. Fifteen accepted the invite that historic Friday night. Like a wedding, it was supposed to be a perfect day. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. Little did she know...she would only harden the participants resolve that day.

Large thunderstorms rolled in and delayed the game for hours. The group's diehard spirit remained unbroken. They hunkered down under the foul weather and stayed the course. Mother Nature relented and the game continued, as did the fun and folly well into the night. The event was a great success and the sun rose the following day...and time marched on. Little did Taylor know, that a piece of his destiny had been decided that day.

The Invite

Being the planner that he is, Taylor extended verbal invites weeks in advance of the inaugural event. Unfortunately, Taylor forgot to invite one of his neighboring co-workers.

That Friday afternoon, while wrapping up the week's work, the co-worker caught news of the event as others filed through the door on their way to Busch Stadium. When one ticket holder stopped to comment, "Hey Taylor...thanks for putting the game together"...the word was out. A dejected and scorned look from his co-worker reinforced to Taylor that perhaps his tact was off this day.

Come game time, Taylor's guilt was enough inducement for him to consider a formal invitation should he ever host a work event again. At the time, he had no idea that Taylor Day would live to see a second year. When he decided to host the event the following year, the Taylor Day Invitation was born and no one was left out. The tradition continues today.

Year 2

It was the summer of 1997 and baseball was back in play. Still in St. Louis, Taylor recalled the previous summer and how much fun he had at that first ballgame. As such, Taylor decided to host again, but this year...it would don an official name, "The Diagraph Corporation/Taylor Freeman Night at the Ballpark." (Shortened simply to "Taylor Day" after the move to Chicago in 1999). One year older and one year wiser, this year, Taylor would introduce the Taylor Day Invitation. Unfortunately, there is no known copy of the first invitation, only a fleeting memory...a spliced picture of Taylor on the cover of a 1997 Cardinals game program. It was a simple invitation but the beginning of one of the most anticipated of Taylor Day traditions.

Forty people attended that second year and it was another great success. In a calculated move, Taylor requested the last row of the Busch Stadium bleachers so that he and his assembly could hang out in the standing-room-only section behind the bleachers...another tradition that continues to this day. Mother Nature wasn't a spoiler that year and once again good times ensued. The following year (1998), the Taylor Day tradition would continue.

Chicago

1998 marked a life-altering event in Taylor's life and in Taylor Day. In the late fall of '98, Taylor left his friends in St. Louis and moved north to Chicago. It was an easy transition for Taylor as years prior, his older brother Nick had already made the move.

Taylor was faced with a difficult decision in the summer of 1999. Reflecting again on Taylor Day and summers past; what should he do about the game? After three successful Taylor Day outings, Taylor decided to host the game again, this time, in his new hometown.

Knowing he could count on his St. Louis friends to make the trek, Taylor purchased 50 tickets and invited some of his Chicago friends to join the tradition. Though all of the previous traditions would continue, 1999 brought one substantial change, a new venue for Taylor Day, the "friendly confines" of Wrigley Field.

It was an interesting contrast that year as Taylor combined his diehard Cardinal fans with his diehard Cubs fans. As expected, the group looked beyond their differences and focused on their common interests... and celebrated the day.

Most of the memories that day were erased by emptied beer bottles. The Taylor Day crew embraced their new surroundings and elevated their post-game revelry to a new level. With the new Wrigleyville setting brought new planning opportunities, opportunities that would spawn new traditions, develop new friendships and produce more great memories...memories to last a lifetime.

Why "Taylor Day"?

It's important to mention that Taylor Day is not a celebration of Taylor, rather a celebration of friendships new and old. A celebration of life and the pursuit of happiness. A celebration of a great city and a great country and all of the freedoms that it provides us. A celebration of a beloved pastime.

The truth is, Taylor doesn't like the name at all. The moniker now represents a brand name, a brand name that represents an event, an event with many years of growing tradition and a history of making people happy. It doesn't take a marketing guru to know that brand recognition is the key to promoting any product. Taylor Day isn't a product with the aim of making a profit; it's a product to promote goodwill.

As Taylor Day grows in popularity so does the opportunity to do some good with it...an opportunity to make a difference.  What started years ago with 15 people at a ballgame, has grown to a philanthropic event with an ever-expanding horde of enthusiasts.  We hope you continue to participate for years to come and enjoy good friendships and great fun...but know that you are doing much much more.

Thank you and we hope to see you at the ballgame...

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