Former MVP, Austin High alumni Don Baylor remembered

AUSTIN - All-Star.  MVP.  World Series Champion.

All of those - apt descriptors for Don Baylor's storied 19-year playing career. But before all of that, Don Baylor first starred at Austin High.

"He hit the ball into the tennis courts," said Rudy Alvarez, a longtime friend of Baylor's, who first met him in the 1960's.

At the time, Baylor was the first African-American to play football and baseball at Austin High.

"Yes, there was racial things at the schools. And Don, it bothered him.  He'd get upset about it, but he knew he was going to be better. He just knew he was going to be a better person, a better ball player," Alvarez explained.

He was also the first African-American to be offered a football scholarship by the University of Texas. Still, he stuck with baseball, where he joined up with Alvarez at Blinn Junior College in Brenham.

"Don was a very mature, very serious type of guy.  He could be funny, very funny," said Alvarez.

As Baylor entered the Majors and became a star, Alvarez would visit him when he came to Texas to play the Rangers.

He recalled one encounter when Baylor was playing with the Yankees.

"[The Yankees] had lost. Yogi Berra came in and he hollered 'who turned the TV on?' He wanted the TV off. And I was the only one sitting there [in front of the TV]. He turned it off... and Don came right over to me, and he knew I was a little leery and said 'hey, don't worry about it. Yogi's like that. Don't worry about it. Just sit there and have a good time," Alvarez recalled.

On Monday, after a years-long battle with multiple myeloma, Baylor passed away in Austin.

"You just can't believe it when you have a friend, you have a person (like) Don. The eyes of baseball, and sports, and the person he is," said Alvarez.

In 19 seasons, Baylor hit .260, with 338 HR's and 1,276 RBI's.  He won AL MVP in 1968 and was a three-time Silver Slugger winner.

From 1986-1988, Baylor made the World Series with three different teams (Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics), winning with the Twins in 1987.

Following his illustrious playing career, Baylor joined the coaching ranks. After stints as a hitting coach with the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals, Baylor was named the first manager for the expansion Colorado Rockies.

In 1995, Baylor was named NL Manager of the Year for leading the Rockies to their first playoff berth.

Baylor also spent time as manager of the Chicago Cubs (2000-2002), as well as serving other roles with the Mets, Mariners, Rockies (hitting coach), Diamondbacks, and Angels.

When asked how he'd sum up his friend's life and impact, he needed just 8 words.

"Don Baylor is the perfect model to follow."

© 2017 KVUE-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment