My Friday Five posts are usually just a short introduction with a bunch of cards posted that make up the majority of the post. "I won't waste your time" sorts of things. Not this week.
Unfortunately, Baylor passed away last summer after battling from multiple myeloma. He died the same day as former Phillies catcher Darren Daulton, so the news of Baylor's passing almost slipped my attention.
I actually learned of the news off of Dexter Fowler's Instagram page....
who had coached him while he was playing for the Rockies at the beginning of his career.
I spent that evening watching a Cardinals game. It was a bit a snoozer, had to go back and look the game up, but they played the Royals and won handily. The important thing was, that I also spent time that evening shuffling through some mid 1980s Topps cards. I passed a Baylor card and stopped at it, and ended up flipping the card over.
It was a 1985 Topps card. I really did not remember him as a Yankee, but as soon as I saw the card it looked vaguely familiar. I flipped the card over and found that Baylor was a lot better player than what I had remembered him to be.....
The stats on these cards do not really scan well, but in his prime he hit 20 to 30 home runs a year, drove in 80 to 90 runs, and even swiped 20 to 30 bases a year early in his career. His best season in 1979 ended in Baylor winning the American League MVP with the Angels.
I started reading a bit more on Baylor.
There was a lot more to his story than just having some good numbers on the back of a baseball card. During his 20 year career he spent time with the Orioles, Angels, and Yankees with a few stops in between with the A's, Red Sox, and Twins. He appeared on a Postseason roster seven of the twenty years he played. Not a baseball card stat, but you make the Postseason, you are doing something right. Also not a baseball card stat, but Baylor also retired as the all-time leader in being hit by pitches. Craig Biggio passed him by a few years back.
Baylor's back story, before he was a professional baseball player, is great. I had never heard a word of it, but it immediately caught my attention and made me even more of a fan.
The younger Don Baylor played was directly involved with the efforts to integrate the public schools in Austin, Texas where he grew up. While he was in elementary school Baylor had to take a city bus across town to attend school since his neighborhood school was all white. By the time he reached middle school, Baylor was given the choice of attending a school of his parent's choosing. They sent him to O. Henry Middle School where he became one of the first African American students, along with two other middle schoolers, to integrate the entire public school system in Austin.
There are many different accounts of some of the problems that Baylor faced during his time attending middle and high school as one of the first African-American students in that city if you are interested in reading more. The articles are out there. Baylor also became the first African-American to participate on the sports teams at his high school Stephen F. Austin. He played baseball and football there.
Baylor was a good enough football player that he also became the first African-American to ever be offered a football scholarship to play at the University of Texas. He was offered the opportunity to be the player who integrated the school's athletic program. However, he ended up being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2nd Round of the 1967 draft and signed his first professional contract at the Texas State Capitol.
I started a small Don Baylor collection. Mainly just interesting cards that I could find on the cheap. I am not out to find all of his cards or anything, just a few that are unique. I feel like I finished off my collection today with a package I got in the mail, but I have a few other cards that I have found over the last year that fit my criteria of being unique items.
Here are my favorite five Don Baylor cards.
5. 1981 Kellogg's
I miss cereal cards. I have had good luck finding these cheap at the Raleigh card shows over the years in the quarter and fifty cent bins. At least the cards from the 1980s. Some of these crack and bend, but this card is in pretty good shape. The yellow might be fading a little, still really happy with the overall condition.
4. 1976 SSPC
I see these classified as oddball cards. They are really a pretty standard baseball card, just low budget, and completely unlicensed. Just a really simple concept though. White framed cards with a portrait photograph. It works for me.
3. 1983 Kellogg's
You can never have enough cereal cards. I like the design on this card better. The white frames around the edges have a cleaner look than the yellow on the 1981 cards. Although I feel like Don Baylor is sort of falling off the edge of the card. Just feels a little cut off.
2. 1975 Topps
This is the most seventies of the seventies sets. I like the 1971 set a lot, but it's so clean. Two toned, bright colors. I love these cards. This is my favorite of Baylor's Topps base cards.
1. Johnny's Pro Stand Up
I do not know much about this card. From what I can tell, this set is a local product that features only Orioles players. I have also seen a few of these with Wes Unseld from the Bullets on them. In some ways they remind me of the stand up cards that Upper Deck put in the UD Choice set during its final year or two. This card has a more serious look though, not a cartoon body.
One last card. I always try to find autographs of players that I collect. While I am sure that many people out there with a better collection of Don Baylor cards than my small and modest stack of cards that I have scanned and put up on my blog, it did not feel complete without this final card.....
I had several options. I actually missed out on a few copies of an autograph he had in a Topps Archives product about five or six years ago. I finally landed this card. I love the Greats of the Game cards, I just wish they had matched the picture of Baylor in the Angels uniform, which is a great photograph from the early 1980s, with a time appropriate logo. The late 90s/early 2000s Angels logo was horrible.