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Growing up in Austin in the fifties and sixties, I couldn’t play baseball in certain places. In Clarksville, a mostly black area where there were no paved streets, I could usually find a pickup game. In West Lynn, which was whiter, I kind of had to push myself into one. And I was not allowed to play at all on Enfield Road, a totally white neighborhood just a few blocks from where I lived. When I went to O. Henry Junior High in 1962, I was one of only three blacks at the school. Austin High by then was pretty much integrated, but when I got there some black students tried to discourage me from playing on the baseball team, which was basically all-white—but I played anyway. As a senior, I was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, and the next thing I knew I was playing minor league ball in Bluefield, West Virginia. That was an entirely different part of the South, and there were tough times. But it would have been even tougher if I hadn’t had those early experiences.
Don Baylor, the manager of the Colorado Rockies, was born in Austin and lived there until age eighteen. Last season, after he led the three-year-old Rockies into the playoffs, the Baseball Writers Association of America named him National League manager of the year.