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RIP Don Baylor (1949-2017)

Don Baylor, the D-backs hitting coach in 2011-13, passed away today after a long battle with cancer.

Washington Nationals v Arizona Diamondbacks

Don Baylor’s career as a player lasted nineteen years, from 1970 through 1988. He spent more time with the California Angels, but also played for the Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees, Twins and Athletics. He was the American League’s Most Valuable Player for the 1979 season, when he hit 36 home-runs and had 139 RBI for the Angels, also making his only All-Star appearance that season. He reached the World Series in his final three season, with three different teams - the Red Sox in 1986, the Twins in 1987, and the A's in his last year, 1988. He’s one of only two players to accomplish this trifecta; the other also has a D-backs connection, Sunday’s birthday boy, Eric Hinske.

After retiring - he’s still fourth all-time on the career HBP list - he became a hitting coach, and was then named manager of the expansion Colorado Rockies in 1993. He led them to their first post-season appearance, getting the NL wild-card in 1995, and was named National League manager of the year for that season. He managed the Rockies until 1998, and also had a spell in charge of the Chicago Cubs, between 2000 and 2002. He then went to work as bench or hitting coach with the Mets, Marines and Rockies, before joining the D-backs as hitting coach before the 2011 season.

He was part of a coaching staff that year with a formidable set of resumes as players, alongside Charles Nagy, Alan Trammell and Matt Williams. Under manager Kirk Gibson, they helped drive the team to the division title, and the Diamondbacks then took the Milwaukee Brewers to extra innings in the deciding game of the Division Series. He remained with the club for two further years, and was asked to return after the 2013 campaign. But Baylor opted instead to become the coach at his beloved Angels, a position he held through the end of 2015.

In SnakePit lore, Baylor will forever be remembered for the reaction GIF depicting his response to a mammoth Wily Mo Pena home-run on June 24, 2011 against the Detroit Tigers.

Baylor was diagnosed in 2003 with multiple myeloma, a cancer that attacks the bone marrow, but never let it stop him. He spoke about his battle with the disease in 2013, telling Barry Bloom, “I just manage it and live with it. It doesn't restrict me from doing anything. I just go about my daily routine.” He was a tireless fundraiser, both against that disease and for cystic fibrosis research. Tributes flowed in from those who knew him: pitcher Barry Enright, part of the 2011 D-backs, called Baylor, “An amazing coach and person with an infectious personality.” J.J. Putz said “Baseball lost a great man this morning” and Willie Bloomquist said Baylor was, “One of my all time favorites.”