By the time he retired in 1988, he had been hit 267 times, a modern-day record at the time. (It was surpassed by Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros.)
Baylor’s major league career began in 1970 with the Orioles, who had won the World Series in 1966 and would win it again in 1970. His mentor was the future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, an aggressive, intimidating player who later managed Baylor on the Santurce team in the winter league in Puerto Rico after the 1970 season.
“Mostly, he taught me to think while hitting,” Baylor was quoted as saying in the book about the 1986 Red Sox. “He would say, ‘A guy pitches inside, hit that ball right down the line.’ Frank also wanted me to start using my strength more. Frank knew there was a pull hitter buried somewhere inside me.”
But just as Baylor was starting to demonstrate the full scope of his talents, the Orioles sent him to the Oakland Athletics in a six-player deal before the 1976 season that brought Reggie Jackson to Baltimore. Baylor was shocked at the trade and wept when he was told about it by Manager Earl Weaver during an exhibition game. He did not want to leave the Orioles.
After a mediocre season with Oakland — his major highlight was stealing 52 bases — he signed a free-agent contract with the California Angels. But in his first season with the Angels he was slumping badly, and the team hired Robinson, who had been fired as manager of the Cleveland Indians, as batting coach. “Don is so fouled up now that he needs a lot of work,” Robinson told Sports Illustrated.
Baylor recovered to have a good season. He blossomed in 1978 and 1979, when he hit 36 home runs, drove in 139 runs, batted .296 and easily won the M.V.P. Award.
By then, Baylor had established himself as a leader both on and off the field.
“There was no one more feared in the league coming into second base,” Bobby Grich, who played second base as a teammate of Baylor’s on the Orioles and Angels, told The Los Angeles Times in 2002. “He came in like a locomotive. And he had no weaknesses. He led through quiet example. He never let up. He played hurt. He could take a beating.”
Baylor never wanted to admit that being hit…