Don Baylor, the newly hired hitting coach for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and one of only two Angels players ever to win the MVP, suffered a bizarre accident before Monday’s Opening Day game in Anaheim, and had to be taken to a hospital for surgery on a badly broken leg.
When he tried to catch the pre-game ceremonial first pitch by reaching across his body, the 64-year-old Baylor appeared to twist his right leg under his body. The leg bent at a grotesque angle, causing Baylor to collapse on to the dirt around home plate.
When he attempted to stand the leg went out again. Don Baylor was taken to U.C. Irvine Hospital where doctors diagnosed a broken femur bone. The Angels batting instructor was scheduled for surgery on the leg Tuesday.
INJURY UPDATE – Don Baylor sustained a fractured right femur. The Halos batting coach will have surgery tomorrow.
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) April 1, 2014
The “pitcher” was Vladimir Guerrero, the only other Angels player in the club’s 52-year history to a Most Valuable Player Award.
To add insult to injury, the Angels lost their Opening Day game to the Seattle Mariners, 10-3.
Guerrero won his MVP in 2004, his first year with the Angels after eight seasons with the now-defunct Montreal Expos. He played with the Angels until 2009. After last season, he announced his retirement, signing a one-day contract with the club allowing him to bow out as, officially, an Angel.
The Austin, Texas, native Don Baylor was selected to catch Guerrero’s soft toss because he also won the MVP with the Angels — in 1979 when the club was known as the California Angels — and also because this opening day marked Baylor’s return to Anaheim where he spent the prime of his career, from 1977 to 1982 after playing from 1970 to 1975 with the Baltimore Orioles, though his first full season was 1972.
After departing the Angels, he played for four more teams, including the Boston Red Sox in 1986 when finally reached the World Series.
In 2003, Baylor was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer.
Don Baylor was known as a tough, stoic player who rarely reacted to pain, which made Monday’s incident even more difficult to watch. In 1986 Baylor set a Red Sox franchise record by getting hit by pitches 35 times. In his career, Don Baylor was hit by 267 pitches, ranking him fourth on baseball’s all-time pain endurance list.
Video of the freak Don Baylor injury is below, but be warned, it is not for the squeamish.