My buddy Jim visited my blog covering the Arizona Diamondbacks, Venomstrikes.com over the Summer and noticed Don Baylor standing in the background of one of the photos. He told me that Baylor was one of his favorites growing up (mine, too) and thought he would be a great subject for a post. Well, it took about five months but my pal’s request has been granted.
For those who are not familiar with his career, “Groove” was a powerful slugger who spent time with a number of American League teams over his 19-year career. He won the AL MVP in 1979 with the California Angels, leading the league in RBI’s with 139, propelling the Halos to their first division title in club history. I was able to see Baylor up close during his three years with the New York Yankees. I remember that besides being a dead-pull hitter and a guy whose stance I loved to imitate, he would get hit in the arm by a pitch and trot to first base. It was nothing to him, he would just glance down, flip the bat and jog to first. This was repeated 267 times, good enough to set a modern record which was later broken by Craig Biggio. Hughie Jennings is the all-time leader in this category, getting hit 287 times while playing from 1891 to 1903. Besides his proficiency in getting plunked and his awesome strength, Baylor was quite the base stealer swiping 52 bags in 1976. In fact, Groove stole 25 or more bases in a season five consecutive years and finished with a career total of 285. He is one of only two players (the other being Eric Hinske) to appear in three consecutive World Series with three different teams (1986 Boston Red Sox, 1987 Minnesota Twins and 1988 Oakland A’s).
After his playing career was over, Baylor served as the hitting coach for several different organizations and would become the manager for two teams. In 1993, he became the first manager of the Colorado Rockies and led the club to their first playoff appearance in 1995 earning Manager of the Year honors. From 1993-1997, the Rockies had the best first five-year record of any expansion franchise. He let go by Colorado after the 1998 season and went on to became the hitting coach for the Atlanta Braves for the 1999 season before being selected as skipper for the Chicago Cubs where he stayed for three seasons. Baylor has been the D-‘Back hitting coach for the past two years and appears to be set to come back for a third.
Don Baylor has been a winner on the field and as this article on mlb.com by Tracy Ringolsby illustrates, a winner off the field for his work on behalf of cystic fibrosis awareness. I would love to see him get one more shot at managing and lead that club to a World Series championship.
Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com