Don Baylor played, coached and managed something like 6,000 baseball games during his 48 years in the sport. And four days before he died, he watched a Minnesota Twins game with an old friend.
“He had such fond memories of Minnesota, because he was part of a championship here. And he loved that I had gone home to work for the Twins,” said Gene Glynn, the Waseca native who took a personal day from his job as third base coach on Aug. 3 to visit Baylor in an Austin, Texas, hospital and watch one more game with him. “He watched not only for the game but to see the players — he loved evaluating young guys. He was a good reader of talent.”
Glynn was absent from his coaching box again over the weekend, this time for a funeral. Baylor, 68, died Monday from multiple myeloma, a blood cancer he had battled for 14 years. And his passing touched a number of Minnesotans who had come in contact with the former AL MVP.
Former players recalled the impact Baylor, then 38, made in just the two months he spent with the Twins in 1987 near the end of his career, a competitive presence that helped give the team confidence as it drove to a World Series championship.
“He was almost larger than life, as a teammate, as a friend, as a man, and you just don’t replace those kind of guys,” Roy Smalley Jr., Baylor’s teammate on that title team, said in an emotional tribute on FSN. “There’s always a space in your heart that can’t be filled in.”
Dustin Morse, the Twins’ media relations director, was a first-year intern with the Cubs in 2002. Baylor was fired as Cubs manager on July 4th amid a disappointing season. “At the end of the season, my internship was ending, so my boss took me out for a going-away dinner. And Don Baylor showed up to wish me well,” Morse said. “That’s who he was — I had known him only a short time, but he actually cared about the people around him. He stayed in touch, and would seek you out, say, at the winter meetings.”
Baylor was hired as the first manager of the Colorado Rockies in the fall of 1992, six months before they played their first game. Glynn was the field coordinator for the Rockies’ fledgling farm system, and got to know him well. When an opening on the major league staff occurred, temporarily in 1994 and permanently in 1995, Baylor asked Glynn to join him, and they were together throughout the rest of his nine-year managerial career in Denver and Chicago.
“It was definitely a work relationship, but over time we started doing more even away from the park,” Glynn said. They golfed on off days during road trips. Baylor visited Waseca and they went fishing. Glynn took him hunting, too, and they and their wives vacationed together in Hawaii.
One winter, Baylor wanted to manage in Venezuela, so Glynn packed his bags and headed south with him. “Over the last 25 years, I’ve probably spent more time with Don and [his wife] Becky than anybody other than my family,” he said.
Glynn appreciated Baylor’s aggressive style, how he taught his players to put pressure on opponents. Colorado’s 1996 team, with Glynn coaching third, is the only one in major league history to hit 200 home runs and steal 200 bases. “Such a great motivator — we’d be down 6-1 [or] 7-2, and he’d say, ‘We got them right where we want them.’ And he could get those guys to go out and play so hard,” Glynn said. “Sometimes he would tell them, ‘Boys, we’re not letting them score today,’ and he would play the infield in with a runner on third base in the first inning, just to get them fired up to do it.”
He trusted his coaches, too. One night near the end of the 1997 season, the Rockies were in Los Angeles, leading 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, but the Dodgers had runners on second and third and one out, with pinch hitter Eric Anthony at the plate. “Eddie Murray was on deck, and I said to Don, ‘I’d walk [Anthony] and play for the win.’ Don said, ‘You would walk someone to get to Eddie Murray?’ ” Glynn recalled. “But he trusted me. I said, ‘Sometimes it ain’t the player but the situation.’ And so he walked [Anthony].”
Three pitches later, Murray hit into a double play.
“I was sitting there going, ‘I hopes this works. Please let this work,’ ” Glynn said with a laugh. “I’ll be a son of a gun, it did. And after the game, he didn’t take credit — he said it was his coaches. We were all one big group. That’s the kind of guy he was.”
AL CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE
August has taken a toll on some critical players in the AL Central. Here’s a look at the key injuries suffered in the past week:
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Indians: They added Jay Bruce in a trade with the Mets, to bolster their offense just in time. Jason Kipnis, who missed a month after straining his right hamstring in July, felt a recurrence of the same injury Thursday. Kipnis wasn’t immediately returned to the DL, but his heart-of-the-order hitting would be a big loss.
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Royals: Trevor Cahill, acquired from the Padres at the deadline, went on the DL with a shoulder impingement after three disappointing starts. But All-Star catcher Salvador Perez’s intercostal injury is having a far bigger impact, and it’s probably going to last another 2-4 weeks.
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Tigers: His injury amounted to only “tingling” in his fingers, but Detroit sent righthander Michael Fulmer, 2016’s AL Rookie of the Year, to orthopedist Dr. James Andrews to make sure his elbow is intact. No surgery will be needed, doctors decided, just rest. Fulmer is eager to return, perhaps as soon as Monday.
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White Sox: Matt Davidson’s right wrist was badly bruised when hit by a pitch on Aug. 1, but the White Sox third baseman, who has 22 home runs this year, thought he could return within a few days. He was penciled in on Aug. 6 but scratched and put on the DL when the pain became too great. He hopes to return this week.
Entering Saturday, Miguel Sano is the Twins’ most productive hitter, with an OPS of .866 and a WAR of 2.3, both team highs. But he is addicted to strikeouts, perhaps indicating how little they mean in the modern game. In just 300 games, Sano already ranks 26th in Twins history in strikeouts, and he’s even higher on some other of the team’s leaderboards:
Most Career Three-Strikeout Games
48 Miguel Sano (right)
43 Harmon Killebrew
35 Jacque Jones
34 Torii Hunter
31 Bob Allison
Most Career Four-Strikeout Games
7 Miguel Sano (5 in 2017)
6 Bobby Darwin
4 Danny Santana, Jason Kubel, Byron Buxton, Oswaldo Arcia, Bob Allison
When he makes contact, he’s among the best Twins ever at getting a hit. Here are the Twins’ career leaders in batting average on balls in play (minimum 1,200 plate appearances):
Career BABIP leaders, Twins
.366 Rod Carew
.365 Miguel Sano
.348 Shane Mack
.342 Kirby Puckett
.340 Rich Becker
.339 Joe Mauer
.338 Lyman Bostock
.333 Paul Molitor
.332 Eddie Rosario
.332 Chuck Knoblauch