Friday, February 7, 2014
Vintage Fridays: Don Baylor, 1973 Topps #384
If today's player is wearing number 25 (which is my best guess), this is a very young Don Baylor. "Groove" debuted with the O's in 1970, but played a total of just nine games with the big league club in 1970 and 1971. So my slightly informed supposition is that these pictures were all snapped on one day between the 1972 and 1974 seasons.
Baylor was already managing the Colorado Rockies by the time baseball caught my attention in 1993, and even the 1980s cards that I accumulated in adolescence showed him as a barrel-chested veteran slugger. It's almost surprising to see him as an athletic, streamlined prospect. But indeed, Don swiped at least 22 bags in each of his first eight MLB seasons, peaking with 52 steals in 1976. I imagine that whoever took these pictures, be it my grandmother or one of my aunts or uncles, they couldn't help but feel starstruck while milling around on the Memorial Stadium field in the presence of all-time greats like Jim Palmer and Brooks Robinson, as well as stars of present and future like Boog Powell and Don Baylor. Some of them were close enough to reach out and touch. It was the 1970s, and the Baltimore Orioles were the class of baseball.