Former American League MVP in 1979 and National League Manager of the Year Don Baylor has passed away at the age of 68 after a 14 year battle with multiple myeloma.
Baylor graduated from Austin High School as one of the first African-Americans to attend the school and the very first to play baseball and football for the school. Baylor had an opportunity to become the first African-American to play football at the University of Texas but Baylor wanted to play football and baseball but Texas football coach Darrell Royal was opposed saying that was put too much pressure on Baylor and wanted him to focus on football so when the Orioles drafted in round 2 in 1967 it was an easy decision for Baylor. By the way, the Minnesota Twins selected 3B Bob Storm in round 2 just 2 picks earlier.
Remembered for his charisma and kindness off the field, Baylor was also a force to be reckoned with at the plate in a terrific 19-year career as a player. A three-time winner of a Silver Slugger Award and an American League All-Star, Baylor hit .260 over the life of a career that was highlighted by Most Valuable Player honors as a member of the 1979 California Angels.
Baylor, nicknamed “Groove” helped a team to the postseason on seven different occasions and, in the waning stages of his career, was traded from the Red Sox to the Twins for the stretch run in 1987. He’d go on to collect seven hits in 18 at-bats during the playoffs that season, including a game-tying two-run homer in Game 6 of the World Series. Minnesota would rally for six more runs following that key hit, and the Twins ultimately rode that momentum to a Game 7 victory and a World Series championship.
Following his playing days, Baylor became the first manager in Colorado Rockies history in their inaugural 1993 season. By the time the strike-shortened 1995 campaign rolled around, Baylor’s Rockies finished the season with a 77-67 record, leading to the first postseason appearance in franchise history as well as NL Manager of the Year honors for Baylor. That marked the first of three straight winning seasons for Baylor, who also later spent three years managing the Cubs (2000-02). Baylor’s managing record was 627-689. Baylor is one of four men to win an MVP award and Manager of the Year, joining Kirk Gibson, Frank Robinson and Joe Torre.
Baylor’s time in the dugout would continue for more than a decade, as he also served as a bench coach for the Mets and a hitting coach for the Braves, Mariners, Rockies, Diamondbacks and Angels.
Baylor is survived by his wife, the former Rebecca Giles; his son, Don Jr.; his brother, Doug; his sister, Connie; and two granddaughters. His marriage to Jo Cash ended in divorce.