Don Baylor left his own mark on baseball wherever he went. While playing, he won the MVP award and while managing he was the Manager of the Year. He was a respected slugger, punishing on the base paths and a commanding presence inside any big league clubhouse.
During close to 25 years as professional in baseball left its own mark on the player/manager. When he retired, as a player he had been hit by more pitches than any other player in the history of the sport.
Baylor was beaned with sliders, fastball, curves and more to the tune of 267 times during his career. Baylor set the record for modern day baseball in 1987, while playing with the Red Sox on his 38th birthday.
He was given a ball following that game by the Red Sox and commented that he could think of many other ways to be presented a birthday gift.
Baylor died of cancer on Monday at the age of 68. His family announced through a statement that Baylor had died in Austin, Texas, his hometown, following a battle of 14 years with multiple myeloma.
Jim Palmer, one of Baylor’s teammates with the Baltimore Orioles and a Hall of Famer, said that Baylor was one of the nicest men he has known, unless of course you played middle infield during a double play.
Baylor was the American League MVP in 1979 while playing for the California Angels. He played in all of the team’s 162 games leading baseball in RBIs with 139 and in runs scored with 120. That year he also hit 36 home runs which was his career high.
Baylor after his retirement became the first Colorado Rockies manager, guiding the new franchise to its only appearance in the playoffs during the team’s third season back in 1995.
Only three others won the MVP award as a player and the Manager of the Year awards. Those three were Kirk Gibson, Joe Torre and Frank Robinson.
Baylor was given his nickname Groove by Frank Robinson when in 1970 as a rookie with the Orioles Baylor was asked about trying to play for a team with a talented outfield he said he was not worried because once he got into a groove, he would be just fine.
Robinson saw the quote the next day in the paper and labeled Baylor with Groove as a nickname that stayed with him during his entire playing career.
Baylor may have been a menace on the base path for infielders with his size and strength but he was also fast as he stole 52 bases in 1976 with the Oakland Athletics and ended his career with 285.