Austin, Texas has a city-wide mask mandate as the Orange Menace Virus has attacked and spread in 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 and uninhabited downtown on a admitted 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 loitering at an abandoned bus stop bearing a resemblance to 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 unflappable 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,” 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 was enjoying being a “slow observer” and soaking in the local murals, eccentricities, food and flavor; and this random synchronicity eventually led me to a massive cemetery where by some stroke of luck, 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 refined 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, and 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.