CLEVELAND (AP) — Don Baylor’s one-of-a-kind presence was again with the Colorado Rockies.
Baylor, the team’s first manager who died Monday after a lengthy battle with cancer, was honored Tuesday night as the Rockies hung his No. 25 jersey inside their dugout at Progressive Field.
An intimidating player for 19 seasons, Baylor became Colorado’s manager in 1993 and led the expansion Rockies to their first playoff appearance in their third season. Since his passing, Baylor has been remembered for his honesty, integrity and fairness.
“He was a gentleman with a lot of class and dignity,” current Rockies manager Bud Black said. “On the baseball side he was an outstanding player. He was an old-school tough guy. There was a toughness to him that was real. There was a presence to Don that you felt on the field, whether it was in the game, around the cage, from the other dugout. You knew he was around. He was a great man.”
The Indians observed a moment of silence for Baylor before Tuesday’s first pitch. A photo of Baylor, smiling and wearing his Rockies cap and jersey, was shown on the ballpark’s enormous scoreboard. Fans and players for both teams applauded following the tribute.
Baylor went 440-469 in six seasons as Colorado’s manager.
He played for the Orioles, Athletics, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox and Twins. In 1979 for California, he was named the AL’s MVP after leading the majors with 139 RBIs and scoring 120 runs.
But Baylor is perhaps best remembered for being a baseball magnet as he was hit by pitches 267 times in his career.
“He stood right on the plate,” said Black, a former big-league pitcher who hit Baylor four times. “People ask me: ‘Who were your toughest outs?’ I had a bunch, but he was menacing. He was a menacing hitter.”
Indians manager Terry Francona was briefly with Baylor in Milwaukee in 1990. Baylor was the club’s hitting coach, and while Francona didn’t get to know him well, he has heard a lot about him from Cleveland bench coach Brad Mills.
“I’ve heard all the fondness that comes with something like that,” Francona said of Baylor’s passing, which touched so many around baseball. “It just seems like he was much too young. When you see him, he’s such a big, imposing guy. It just kind of rattles you a little bit.”
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