Former major-league baseball star and Austin native Don Baylor died Monday morning after a long struggle with multiple myeloma. He was 68.
Baylor died at 4:25 Monday morning at St. David’s South Hospital, his son confirmed to the Austin American-Statesman.
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.
He played 19 seasons in the major leagues and was a feared power hitter who was known for crowding the plate and taking a pitch. Lots of them. He was hit a then-record 267 times, an example of his toughness and fearless style.
Baylor brought that fearless style to coaching and managing. After stints as a batting coach with the Brewers and Cardinals, he was named the first manager of the Rockies when they began play in 1993. He managed them for six seasons and had them in the postseason as a wild card in their third year, at the time the fastest any expansion team had made the playoffs.
Baylor was named Cubs manager in 2000, replacing Jim Riggleman. He was the first African-American manager in Cubs history, and his first season was a rough one, with the team losing 97 games.
But in 2001, the Cubs got off to a great start, at one point winning 12 consecutive games. That’s still the team’s longest winning streak since 1936. They led the N.L. Central by 4½ games as late as August 1, but faded and finished third at 88-74.
2002 was another rough year, and Baylor was fired July 4 with the Cubs in fifth place in the division with a 34-49 record.
68 is too young. Baylor had a fine big-league career; in addition to the HBP record noted above, he had 2,135 career hits and 338 home runs for the Orioles, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox, Twins and Athletics and was voted American League MVP in 1979.
Sincere condolences to his family, friends and all he touched in the world of baseball.