Funny, when Barry Bonds started breathing down Babe Ruth’s neck, speculation over the former’s use of illegal substances ran rampant. But as Craig Biggio’s assault on Don Baylor’s HBP mark continues, media and fans alike turn a blind eye. More on the subject (sort of) from the Tacoma Tribune’s Larry Larue.
Four-and-a-half hours before the game Wednesday, Don Baylor was walking across the field at Camden Yards, headed to the batting cages beneath the stands, when a stadium tour guide spotted him.
œThat™s Don Baylor, who started his career as a Baltimore Oriole and set the major league record for being hit by a pitch 267 times, the guide told a gaggle of fans.
œThey won™t be able to say that much longer, he said. œCraig Biggio is getting close.
Houston™s second baseman began the night fewer than 10 behind Baylor™s big-league record “ a mark no one in their right mind would set out to establish. For one thing, it™s a record that hurts.
œI could have been hit another 100 times if I hadn™t gotten out of the way, said Baylor, the Seattle Mariners™ batting coach. œI didn™t go up there to get hit. I went up and crowded the plate to take away the outside strike and make pitchers come in to me. It evolved into part of my game. Hit me, I™ll steal a base on you.
Jim Bibby hit Baylor in the head in Class AAA, and it changed the way Baylor approached the game.
œI decided no matter where I got hit, I™d never come out of a game, he said. œMy first year in the majors, Nolan Ryan hit me on the wrist and the Baltimore trainer came out and sprayed that stuff on that was supposed to numb it.
œI told him that day, no matter where I™m hit from now on, don™t come out. I told all my trainers that. I didn™t want a pitcher thinking he could hurt me.
Baylor set the record in a 19-year career in which he drove in more than 1,200 runs and usually batted in the heart of the lineup. His toughness was unquestioned, and when asked about Biggio breaking the record, Baylor mentioned it.
œBiggio and a lot of guys today wear elbow pads, all kinds of protection, Baylor said. œI never wore a thing. You wear gear, you hang out over the plate, the pitcher can come inside and hit you and you don™t feel a thing. The game has changed.
œOne year in Texas, I hit an outside-corner slider from Ferguson Jenkins and pulled it down the line for a double. My next at-bat, he threw a fastball at my chin. It was his way of saying, ˜You can™t have both sides of the plate on me.™
Surprisingly, Baylor rarely was hit in the head.
œLook at him, ex-teammate Bruce Kison once said. œYou want that charging the mound?