Thursday, September 26, 2013

Player Profile: Don Baylor

I have 45 cards of Don Baylor. This one is from 1986 O-Pee-Chee.

Playing career: Don Baylor played nineteen seasons in the major leagues, starting as an outfielder but quickly transferring to DH once the new position was established. He had over 2000 hits and 300 HR, and won the AL MVP in 1979 with the Angels, leading the American League in both runs scored and RBI. An eight-time AL leader in being hit by pitch, and held the career record for over twenty years.

My memories: As a Yankee fan I was always annoyed by Baylor. He played for six teams, and the only one he didn’t help lead to the playoffs was the Yankees. The Yankees traded him to the Red Sox before the 1986 season, and he provided veteran leadership to get them to the playoffs for the first time in eleven years. The next year, Boston traded him to the Twins, providing veteran leadership to get them to the playoffs for the first time in sixteen years. The next year, He signed with Oakland, providing veteran leadership to get them to the playoffs for the first time in seven years.

Where he is now: Baylor has coached for several teams and managed the Rockies and Cubs for nine years. Though he had just a .476 winning percentage as a manager, he did lead the Rockies to their first playoff appearance in 1995. He is currently the hitting coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Interesting stories: Baylor was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma since 2003. The average survival rate is five years, which he has already doubled. He was helped by former Yankee Mel Stottlemyre, who was diagnosed in 2000, and who introduced Baylor to some doctors at Sloan Kettering Hospital. Baylor and Stottlemyre are currently doing fundraising for research on the disease.

In 1962 Baylor was one of three children to integrate O. Henry Junior High School in Austin, TX. In 1963, he was a high school classmate of Sharon Connally, whose father John Connally was governor of Texas and was shot when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Baylor was in class with Sharon when Secret Service agents pulled her out of school to tell her that her father was shot. The class was actually scheduled to leave school early to see the President speak later that day.

After graduation Baylor had a scholarship offer to be the first black football player at the University of Texas, but he chose to sign with the Orioles instead after coach Darrell Royal would not permit Baylor to keep playing baseball.

In 1990, Baylor wrote an autobiography called Nothing but the Truth. Ironically, it has mostly negative reviews on Amazon in part because of many inaccuracies in the book. One reviewer also accuses Baylor of messing around with Maury Wills’s wife.

Google Autocomplete results: He is ninth when you type Don B, between Don Bosco Prep Football, the number one high school football team in the nation in 2011, and Don Best, a sports betting service. There do not appear to be any other prominent Don Baylors.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Yorman Bazardo.

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