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Former Rockies manager Don Baylor passes away at 68

Baylor, the first manager in Rockies history, died of cancer on Monday.

Don Baylor, longtime major league player and manager, passed away on Monday at the age of 68.

Baylor, who battled multiple myeloma during the final years of his life, was known for his toughness on and off the baseball diamond. The Austin, Texas native grew up fighting racism in his segregated home town, overcoming his challenging upbringing by making it big as a second-round draft pick and eventual American League MVP award winner.

Baylor’s toughness on the field is shown in the 267 pitches by which he was hit during his career. But Baylor was as talented as he was tough; in addition to being the 1979 MVP winner, he hit 338 career home runs, was selected to an All-Star Game, and earned three Silver Slugger awards.

That same mix of talent and rigidity later helped take Baylor to new heights as a manager. The first-ever skipper of the Colorado Rockies, Baylor endured a challenging first two years with the Denver expansion team before guiding them to the postseason in 1995. For his efforts that season, Baylor was named the National League Manager of the Year.

After a stint as the manager of the Chicago Cubs and several other coaching gigs, Baylor returned to the Rockies as hitting coach in 2009 and 2010. Colorado boasted a couple of the strongest offenses in franchise history in those seasons; the Rockies ranked third in the NL in walk rate during that span and produced major breakout seasons at the plate from Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort released a statement (via the club’s Twitter account) on Baylor’s passing:

The Rockies will honor Baylor starting tomorrow night in Cleveland by hanging a jersey adorned with his name in the dugout. There will also a Baylor tribute planned for when the team returns to Coors Field next Monday, Aug. 14.