An Austin Hero: Memories of Don Baylor
In the eighth grade, I was a reporter for the O’Henry Mustang looking for some kind of story that would make my classmates notice me. I found it when I realized that Don Baylor, then a promising young outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles, was an O’Henry alum who still lived in Austin during the off-season. In fact, his mother worked in our school’s cafeteria. Through her, I obtained his phone number and I mustered all my courage to connect with this star athlete on my parent’s old rotary phone.
I got lucky that he was home when I called and that he was nice enough to take 15 minutes out of his evening to answer my awkward questions. A month later, our short interview (much shorter than I had initially planned because the audio tape of our conversation turned out to be barely audible) appeared in our tiny, 8-page newspaper. My classmates still didn’t notice me — but, I loved the entire experience and I was sure that I would go on to pursue a career as a sportswriter.
Ten years later, Baylor joined my beloved Red Sox. I’ll never forget where I was on October 12, 1986 when he crushed a ninth inning home run against the California Angels that helped deliver Boston to the World Series. It was Dave Henderson’s two-run shot later in the inning that actually won the game — but Hindu’s game-winning round-tripper would never have happened had not Baylor opened the door with his unlikely blast. Never mind what happened against the New York Mets in the next series; those bitter memories have long since been erased.
This local sports legend passed away earlier this week at the age of 68. While I never had a chance to meet him face-to-face, I always had a special feeling about his career, his life and his place in this city’s history. Yes, Austin is a much different city now than it was 40 years ago. Likewise, my dreams have changed a little in the four decades since that interview. But not all that much. Some day when I grow up, I am going to be a real sportswriter and write more stories about real heroes like Don Baylor.
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and various current events.