Don Edward Baylor was a major league baseball player. He was born in Austin in 1949 to George E. Baylor and Lillian Joyce Brown Baylor, and was one of at least three siblings. His father George had served in the United States Army and then been employed by the Missouri Pacific Railroad out of Austin. Don was at the least a fourth generation Texan with his father, grandfather Carey and great grandfather Amsted all having been born in Texas.
He grew up in the old Clarksville section of Austin and graduated from Austin High School where he played football and baseball and was the first African American to play sports at the school. He declined an athletic scholarship to University of Texas at Austin and enrolled at Blinn College, then known as Blinn Junior College, in Brenham, Texas but was drafted out of high school by the Baltimore Orioles.
Baylor played the better part of three seasons in Baltimore’s minor league system and fairly quickly advanced from the Rookie League through A, AA and AAA levels before making his debut in the major league club in 1970. Baylor went on to play 19 seasons in the majors for Baltimore, Oakland, California, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Minnesota before retiring after the 1988 season. In the major leagues he was known as a durable power hitter, appearing in 2,292 games in which he had 2,135 hits in 8,198 at bats. He also logged 338 home runs while having a .260 lifetime batting average. He was a big man and was known for standing close to the plate. As a result he was hit by pitch (hbp) some 267 times, which still ranks fourth on the all time hbp list. In the field, he played first base and left field and later was a designated hitter.
Following his retirement as an active player, he stayed in baseball for the rest of his career as a coach and manager. His managerial record was 627 wins against 689 losses in 1,316 games (1993-2002) in six seasons with the Colorado Rockies and three seasons with the Chicago Cubs. He was named National League Manager of the Year for his role in leading the Rockies to a 77-67 record. They finished second in the National League West losing to Atlanta in four games in the division series.
In 2003, Baylor was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He was serving as hitting coach for the Anaheim Angels in early April, 2014 when he squatted down to receive Vladimir Guerrero’s ceremonial first pitch. He could not get up after the catch, but some thought he might be joking. It was determined that he had broken his right femur, requiring that a plate and screws be inserted in the leg. He was 64 years old at the time and had been in remission from the disease.
Don Edward Baylor passed away in August of 2017 and is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. He has not yet been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, although during his career he was among the league leaders in numerous categories. He has been inducted into the Angels Hall of Fame.
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