Don Baylor, the 1979 American League MVP and the first manager of the Colorado Rockies, died on Monday after a battle with cancer. He was 68.
“Don passed from this Earth with the same fierce dignity with which he played the game and lived his life,” his wife, Rebecca, said in a statement. His family said he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2003.
Baylor, a native of Austin, Texas, spent 19 seasons in the majors, playing in 2,292 games. He spent most of his career with the Baltimore Orioles and California Angels, winning the AL MVP award in 1979. He also won the 1987 World Series with the Minnesota Twins and was on the Boston Red Sox team that lost the 1986 World Series.
After his playing days were over, Baylor managed from 1993 to 2002. He was the first Rockies manager, taking them to the playoffs in their third year of existence. He managed the Cubs from 2000 to 2002. He spent his last years as a hitting coach for the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Angels.
Here’s what you need to know about Baylor’s family.
1. Baylor Is Survived by His Second Wife, Rebecca, & Their Son Don Jr.
Baylor is survived by his second wife, Rebecca, and their son Don Baylor Jr. and two granddaughters.
In a 2000 Texas Monthly profile, Baylor said they had a home in northwest Austin and another in La Quinta, California. In 2000, Baylor was the manager for the Chicago Cubs.
Baylor’s tenure in Chicago didn’t go nearly as well as his time as the Rockies head coach. He only posted a winning record once, in 2001, when the Cubs went 88-74. His final season with the Cubs was 2002, when he was fired after posing a 34-49 record.
2. Baylor Grew Up in Clarksville, Texas & His Father Worked for the Railroad
Baylor was born in Clarksville, Texas in 1949 to George and Lillian Baylor. According to his Texas Monthly profile, his father was a porter with the Missouri-Pacific Railroad and his mother was a school cafeteria supervisor. He had two younger siblings, brother Doug and sister Connie.
Doug and Baylor grew up loving football, but Baylor fell in love with baseball. Baylor went to O. Henry Junior High School, despite it being a school for white children. Baylor said he only remembered one name-calling incident. After tackling the bully, he was never called an offensive name again. Baylor then went to Austin High School, where he graduated and was the first African-American to play in school athletics.
Baylor almost became the first African-American to play football for The University of Texas, but opted to play baseball and enrolled in Blinn Junior College in Brenham, Texas.
3. Baylor’s Son Was Working in Brooklyn During the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks
Baylor’s only child, 44-year-old Don Baylor Jr., has degrees in psychology and African-American studies. After college, he moved to New York, where he was working in Brooklyn during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He was campaigning for New York City mayoral candidate Mark Green that day. He was lucky that no one he knew died in the attacks, but he was still shaken by the events. He couldn’t get to his Harlem apartment and spent the day with a friend.
“The hardest thing on that day was the inability to feel, because of the emotional and physical state I was in,” Don Jr. told the Chicago Tribune a few weeks after the attacks.
According to Don Jr.’s Twitter page, he is now leading the Urban Institute’s Policy Advisory Group. He splits his time between Austin and Washington D.C.
4. His Brother Doug Is 2 Years Younger Than Baylor
Baylor was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2003 and spent much of his later years fundraising for research. Baylor first beat the disease, and used every opportunity he had to raise awareness.
“The regular cancers have had so much money thrown into the pot, and like Multiple Myeloma, we still can’t find a cure,” Baylor told MLB.com in 2013. “This is a specialized cancer. Maybe we can bring up awareness for Multiple Myeloma. Prostate cancer is men. Breast cancer is women. This can strike anybody. It skips one person and gets another. You don’t even have to be a certain age to get this.”
In that interview, Baylor said he had a bone marrow transplant. His brother, Doug, was a perfect match, but his doctors decided to use his own.
“You have to have a match, and the bone marrow in my brother, Doug, was a perfect match. He’s only two years younger. Because it was a perfect match, they advised me to use my own if you can. So that’s what I did,” Baylor told MLB.com.
After the transplant, he had to stay in a bacteria-free room for 15 days.
“Your immune system is zeroed out, pretty much,” he told MLB.com. “I’m an outdoors person anyway, so to be locked up for 15 days was pretty crazy. And once you’re out, if somebody sneezes down the hallway, you have to get out of there. You have to just watch yourself for awhile. You’re locked up in an airplane and have to breathe the air. There’s nothing you can do about that. You have to wash your hands a lot. In restaurants, there are more germs on menus than there are on shopping carts.”
5. Baylor’s Father George Had to Sign His First Contract With the Orioles Because He Was Only 17
When the Baltimore Orioles signed Baylor after the 1967 amateur draft, he was too young to sign the contract himself. According to a 1986 Sports Illustrated profile, George Baylor had to sign the contract because he was only 17 years old at the time.
However, Baylor made sure there was a college tuition clause, so he took college classes where ever he was playing in the minor leagues. He didn’t make his major league debut until 1970.
Baylor stayed with the Orioles until 1975. Before the 1976 season, he was traded to Oakland, where he spend a season. Then, signed with the California Angels in 1977 and won the AL 1979 MVP Award.
Amazingly, Baylor is one of only two players in MLB history to reach the World Series in three consecutive years with three different teams. He was on the Red Sox in 1986, the Twins in 1987 and A’s in 1988. He won in 1987. He retired with a .260 batting average, 338 home runs and 285 stolen bases.