Don Baylor, Johnnie Taylor, and the 13th Floor Elevators

1979 A.L. MVP and some schmuck.

Austin, Texas has a city-wide mask mandate, as the Orange Menace Virus has attacked the state of Texas unlike few other states. When I visit a new town I feel an innate, almost compulsive desire to explore the area on foot. I roamed through the humid downtown on an asinine and futile mission, trying to find a specific rock and roll bar-The Thirteenth Floor-named after one of my favorite 60’s psychedelic bands, The 13th Floor Elevators. The bar was closed, per regulation, so I stood in front of the joint for a moment trying to cool off in the shade and listened to Johnnie Taylor’s “Running Out of Lies” that was slowly pouring out of a ghetto blaster hoisted by a black dude who looked a lot like Bo Diddley. I knew it couldn’t be Bo Diddley, as he been dead for well over a decade, so I took a swig of water, enjoyed the song and the beauty of the offbeat and the inexplicable for a moment, and was on my way. I realized that I should be referring to GoogleMaps for information, but I like my quests to be visceral and in the tradition of the flâneur, which means “stroller,” “lounger,” “saunterer,” or “loafer.” A defining characteristic of the flâneur is that he doesn’t have any practical goals in mind: he isn’t walking to get something, or to go somewhere specifically, and neither was I.

I enjoyed being a “slow observer” and soaking in the local murals, eccentricities, food and flavor; and this random synchronicity led me to a local cemetery where I stumbled upon the grave of Don Baylor. I paused for a moment and lamented this man who was not only a great hitter, but was also seen as one of the gentlemen of the game. Here are some random facts about Baylor:

— one of four ML players to be named MVP and Manager of the Year. (Kirk Gibson, Frank Robinson, Joe Torre are the others)
— was the major component in the infamous 1976 Charlie Finley garage sale/Reggie Jackson trade with the Orioles.
— was on the star-studded 1988 Oakland A’s team that lost to the Dodgers in the World Series. Baylor had 1 AB in that series.
— Don was hit by a ML record 267 pitches (since broken) and his credo was “never rub” which he only broke once when drilled by a Nolan Ryan fastball.
— he hit a HUGE home run in game 6 of the 1987 World Series leading a comeback against the Cardinals ace John Tudor which helped lead the Twins to the crown.

I sat and visited with Don for a moment, soaking in the awesome greatness and somber mortality of the situation before continuing with my amble. So long, Don. Maybe I’ll see you again sometime.

5 Comments

Wow how interesting… I was just talking to my family yesterday about taking a trip to Austin since I’ve heard so many great things about it. I know the A’s history more or less but I’d never heard of Don Baylor. That is cool you got to pay your respects. It must be hot in Austin this weekend, it’s around 96 here but I heard TX is worse.

It’s more humid here which sort of feels like you’re swimming in air. Not so much going on in Austin these days with the Covid. :/

Gary, another great write up! I’m with you 100 percent on strolling without a destination. I’ve never been to Austin, but I think the movie Slacker was filmed there. I love that movie and love that you stumbled on Don Baylor’s grave!

Thanks, Steve. I’ve read quite a few of your stories about “roaming around.” It’s funny that you mention Slacker because I thought about that movie the other day and made a mental note to watch it.

Loved the Don Baylor find. Thanks for sharing.

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