Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pie biter

"Don't be a pie biter." -- From Major Taylor's Dozen Don'ts.

Major Taylor was a legendary track cyclist at the turn of the 20th Century. He was probably the fastest rider at the time, but because of the color of his skin he was not allowed membership into the League of American Wheelman and could not compete in many race venues. From Ken Kifer's article about Major Taylor:
Time after time, he was refused entry into races, and he wasn't permitted to race in the South, which hurt his overall standings every year. He was not allowed to join the League of American Wheelman, the dominant cycling organization of his day, simply because of his color. He was turned away at hotels and restaurants, even on the evenings before major races. He was fined on numerous occasions for not racing when he had been the victim and not the cause of the problem. He faced a number of attempts to get him disqualified both because of his race and because of problems arising out of prejudices against him. He was sometimes fearful of other cyclists, and not without reason, as they sometimes threatened his life. He was personally attacked by the other racers, both before, after, and during the races, being choked insensible on one occasion and deliberately rammed at high speeds on another. During the race itself, it was more common than not for the other racers to all conspire against him, often trying to seriously hurt him, and otherwise trying to block him from winning. Even when he had won a race, the judge would often find the white man to be the victor when the race had been very close and, in the event of a tie, Taylor would lose.
The famous "pie biter" statement comes from Major Taylor's "Dozen Don'ts" in which he exhorts black athletes to good habits and clean living. His Dozen Don'ts:
Don't try to gyp.
Don't be a pie biter.
Don't keep late hours.
Don't use intoxicants.
Don't be a big bluffer.
Don't eat cheap candies.
Don't get a swelled head.
Don't use tobacco in any form.
Don't fail to live a clean life.
Don't forget to play the game fair.
Don't take in unfair advantage of an opponent.
Don't forget the practice of good sportsmanship.
Read more about Major Taylor in his fascinating autobiography: Major Taylor: The Extraordinary Career of a Champion Bicycle Racer.


  1. Hmmm... according to him, Babe Ruth was an example of clean living (?!?)

  2. Rebecca Moore HowardJune 26, 2007 at 2:29 PM

    But what IS a pie-biter?

  3. Follow the link in the post to demystify the pie biter...

    I really like MT. With as much institutional and personal racism he encountered, he still managed to follow the "don't give them a reason to hate you" form of opposition.

  4. To be fair, it is somewhat buried:

    "The term "pie biter" probably refers to a rider who agrees to block a stronger rider in exchange for a share of the purse."

    Not to take anything away from him, but the fact that he conducted himself with grace was likely as much about self preservation as anything else. It probably kept him from getting lynched.

  5. You're post got picked up (in part) over at Freeman. Interesting how things come full circle two years later. Personally I got a lot more from your piece. Well done. http://www.freemantransport.com/blog/2009/11/good-habits-clean-living/