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Don Baylor

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.

Image credit: Findagrave.com

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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Posted by on January 21, 2021 in biography, black history

 

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The First Battleship Texas (1892)

In service only for just under 20 years, the first battleship bearing the name Texas was built in the Norfolk, Virginia navy yard being the first battleship, or arguably one of the first battleships, of the United States Navy. The funding for the Texas was part of the military appropriation act that authorized the Maine (a cruiser, but also referred to as a battleship), the Baltimore (a cruiser), the Vesuvius (also a cruiser) and the Cushing (a torpedo boat). The Texas had armor plating of 12 inch thick steel over the bulkheads, turret conning tower and redoubt (a protecting reinforcement, also of steel), six inches of steel protecting much of the rest of the ship. To a certain extent, the ship was derivative, built from designs purchased from Britain, before the days when both design and construction were unique and American.

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Posted by on January 14, 2021 in maritime

 

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Johnny Preston, Entertainer

A number of popular performers have come from the Port Neches and Port Arthur area. Singer Johnny Preston was born John Preston Courville, Jr. in Port Arthur, Texas on August 18, 1939 to John Preston Courville, Sr. and Margaret Schexnayder Courville. As a youth, he sang in high school choirs and around the state. Johnny attended Port Arthur College as he began his singing career. Using the stage name Johnny Preston, he formed a vocal group called The Shades and was appearing in a local club in Port Neches at the time he was noticed by club owner J. P. Richardson, who recorded under the name “The Big Bopper.” Richardson was a singer/songwriter and had written a teenage tragedy song (a somewhat popular genre at the time) called “Running Bear” that that tells the story of two Native American youths who drown in a swollen river as they attempted to get together. The tune was recorded in a Houston studio and became a hit record for the nineteen year old Preston in 1958. By the time of its release, Richardson had been tragically killed in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa in 1959 along with the aircraft’s pilot, singer Richie Valens and fellow Texan and singer Buddy Holly.

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Posted by on January 7, 2021 in biography, entertainers

 

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Branch Tanner Archer

Branch Tanner Archer was born in Virginia to Peter Field Archer and Frances Tanner Archer. Archer’s grandfather was Colonel William Wharton Archer, who had fought in the American Revolution as had Archer’s father. As a young man, Archer had received his education at William and Mary College. He then studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia before returning to Virginia to set up a medical practice. He also served several terms in the Virginia State Legislature.

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Posted by on December 31, 2020 in biography, county names, texas revolution

 

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José Antonio Menchaca

For many years, there was a road in south Austin called Manchaca Road. After some legal issues, in 2019 the name was finally changed to Menchaca Road. Some of the objections were voiced by local residents and businesses from a group known as Leave Manchaca Alone, and possibly others. The objections included arguments that Manchaca Road was perhaps not named for the individual who fought in the Texas Revolution, rather that instead it was derived from a Chocktaw word or had some other origin, that the name change would disrupt business, that property owners did not receive the proper notice of the proposed change, etc. An opposing group named Justice for Menchaca was in favor of the name change. Ultimately the judge’s decision favored renaming the street Menchaca rather than Manchaca in honor of José Antonio Menchaca.

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Posted by on December 24, 2020 in biography, hispanic heritage, texas revolution

 

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