Baker re­flects af­ter Bay­lor’s death

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DYBAS

Dusty Baker ar­rived at his Mon­day press con­fer­ence in a solemn mood. He had heard Sat­ur­day that his friend, Don Bay­lor, was not in good health. Mon­day morn­ing, he re­ceived phone calls telling him that Bay­lor had died overnight. He was 68. The Na­tion­als held a mo­ment of si­lence be­fore Mon­day’s game to rec­og­nize Bay­lor and Dar­ren Daulton, the lat­ter of whom died Sun­day.

Baker said he was la­beled the “next Hank Aaron” and Bay­lor was ex­pected to be the re­place­ment for Frank Robin­son in Bal­ti­more. Baker and Bay­lor signed the same year, 1967, af­ter each was drafted out of high school. Bay­lor was a sec­on­dround pick. Baker was not se­lected un­til the 26th round.

From there, the two moved to­ward the ma­jor leagues on a sim­i­lar path. Baker de­buted first de­spite his lower draft sta­tus, mak­ing his way onto a ma­jor-league field as a 19 year old in 1968. Bay­lor made it to the ma­jor leagues shortly af­ter his 21st birth­day in 1970.

Baker be­came a two-time All-Star. Bay­lor was named Amer­i­can League MVP in 1979. Baker fin­ished play­ing in 1986. Bay­lor’s ca­reer ended in 1988. Fol­low­ing Bay­lor into re­tire­ment was a legacy for power at the plate and be­ing struck by pitches. He hit 338 home runs and led the league in be­ing hit by pitches eight times.

“We fought for bat­ting ti­tles all the way up,” Baker said Mon­day. “We played in Puerto Rico to­gether. His first wife picked out my first wife’s en­gage­ment ring. That was the first time I had ever gone to Bal­ti­more, was when I drove up to see Donny. We both went to LA at ap­prox­i­mately the same time. His wife called me on Sat­ur­day, and Claire Smith called me. She was there. I spoke to Donny. I learned that when some­body says call me back — a cou­ple times he called me and I was go­ing to wait ‘til to­mor­row — but that per­son died be­fore I called back. So when some­body says call ‘em, some­body’s not do­ing well, you bet­ter call ‘em right then. Be­cause there’s noth­ing worse than some­body call­ing and say­ing some­body’s not do­ing well and they’ve died al­ready. This is tough.

“His son (Don Jr.) called me to­day. Claire called me to­day and said Donny’s gone. I guess he passed around 4 o’clock this morn­ing and I could kind of feel it be­cause I woke up to use the bath­room and knew some­thing was wrong. The last time I had that feel­ing was when Bobby Welch died. It’s a tough — we all tried to keep up with Donny. We used to play ev­ery­thing. I was a bet­ter bas­ket­ball player, but he was a stronger base­ball player. So this week, they say death trav­els in threes. I just found out Dar­ren Daulton left and David Loewen­stein, Al Rosen’s kid, died last week and Lee May. I was just lis­ten­ing to Tu­pac to­day, and “Death Around the Cor­ner.” I dont’ know if you all know that song or not, but in­deed, you just don’t know how death is to all of us. Just treat each other right and try to do the right thing.”

With that, Baker’s press con­fer­ence con­cluded.


Don Bay­lor, the 1979 AL MVP with the Cal­i­for­nia An­gels who went on to be­come man­ager of the year with the Colorado Rock­ies in 1995, died on Mon­day at a hos­pi­tal in Austin, Texas. He was 68. “This is tough,” Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als man­ager Dusty Baker said.

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