Don Baylor, a former American League MVP and manager of the Colorado Rockies, passed away at 68 from cancer on Monday. Baylor died in a hospital in his hometown of Austin, Texas, after battling with multiple myeloma for 14 years.
“Don passed from this Earth with the same fierce dignity with which he played the game and lived his life,” Baylor’s wife, Rebecca, told ESPN.
Baylor played for 19 seasons in the major leagues, joining the Orioles, Twins, Yankees, Red Sox, Athletics, and most notably the California Angels during his time. He would go on to become the first manager of the Colorado Rockies in 1993, leading them to their first playoff appearance in 1995.
Baylor was a second-round pick by Baltimore in his 1967 debut, where he chose baseball over an opportunity to become the first black football player in Texas.
As an All-Star and MVP winner for the Angels in 1979, Baylor led the majors in RBIs and runs, hitting 338 homeruns during his career. In addition to being the 1979 MVP winner, Baylor also won a World Series ring with the Minnesota Twins in in 1987.
Not all of his records were great for Baylor; at the time of his retirement, he had been hit by pitches a then-record 267 times. While he accomplished much on the field, Baylor also contributed to the spirit of the sport, and built a positive reputation for himself.
“Don’s commitment to the game and its future also inspired him to play an instrumental role in helping the MLBPA establish itself as a bona fide union,” players’ union executive director Tony Clark noted to the LA Times.
Baylor won the NL Manager of the Year Award for his role in the Rockies’ 1995 appearance. On the field, he mostly played as a designated hitter, but also played as an outfielder and first baseman during his time in the ballpark.
Baylor also managed the Chicago Cubs from 2000 to 2002, and he is one of only four men to win both a Manager of the Year Award and be named MVP.
“Throughout stints with 14 different major league teams as a player, coach or manager, Don’s reputation as a gentleman always preceded him,” commissioner Rob Manfred said, per NBC.
[Featured Image by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images]