Former major league baseball player and manager Don Baylor, who won the American League MVP award in 1979, died Monday at the age of 68, the Austin American-Statesman reports. The Austin native had been battling multiple myeloma since 2003.
Baylor was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the second round of the 1967 big league draft and went on to play 19 seasons in the majors with six teams. Some of his best years came with the California Angels, including 1979, when he hit .296 with 36 home runs and led the league in runs (120) and RBI (139). Baylor won a World Series title with the Minnesota Twins in 1987.
“Don passed from this earth with the same fierce dignity with which he played the game and lived his life,” Baylor’s wife, Rebecca, said in a statement.
Baylor, who in high school turned down a scholarship offer to play football at Texas to instead pursue a baseball career, retired after the 1988 season with 338 career home runs. He was also hit by a pitch 267 times, which ranks second behind Craig Biggio (285) since 1900.
“My first goal when I go to the plate is to get a hit,” Baylor told People in 1987. “My second goal is to get hit.”
Baylor made it a point never to rub the spot where he was plunked, lest he give the pitcher any satisfaction. The lone exception was the time in 1973 when Nolan Ryan drilled him in the wrist with a 95-mph fastball.
“Change-ups and slow curves feel like a butterfly, a light sting,” Baylor told People. “Fastballs and sliders feel like piercing bullets, like they’re going to come out the other side.”
Those who played with and covered Baylor over the years recalled his toughness Monday.
Following stints as the hitting coach for the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals, Baylor was hired as the first manager of the expansion Colorado Rockies before the 1993 season. Baylor led the Rockies to one postseason appearance over the next six years and later managed the Chicago Cubs from 2000 to 2002. He most recently served as the hitting coach for the Angels during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. He is one of four people in baseball history to win MVP and manager of the year awards.