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02/07/05 10:01 AM ET

Baylor an Angel in many ways

Before Vladimir Guerrero whirled into the American League, carried the Angels to the AL West title and was named the league's Most Valuable Player, there was Don Baylor, who had been there and done that a quarter-century earlier.

Go back to the magical "Yes We Can" year of 1979 and it was all about Baylor, the burly, scowling but stoic and soft-spoken outfielder who hit .296 with 36 homers and 139 RBIs and keyed the franchise's first playoff team.

Not only was Baylor "the man," but he was and is proud to be an African-American man. And as Black History Month continues, the Seattle Mariners' new hitting coach can look back at his Angel days with a smile.

"That was a very special year for a lot of reasons," said Baylor, 55. "It was special because I was lured to the Angels by a special man [then-Angels general manager Harry Dalton], and he was somebody we trusted. And to give that franchise success was a great accomplishment."

Baylor said he realized that the 1979 Angels were onto something big in mid-July of that year, when they swept the defending World Series champion New York Yankees, getting a one-hitter from Nolan Ryan in the first game, two homers from Baylor in the second and a win over Yankees ace Ron Guidry in the third.

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"That's when 'Yes We Can' started," said Baylor of the rallying cry that echoed throughout the "Big A" that summer. "It was on a roll from there."

Baylor was reminded of that kind of momentum in 2002, when he was a bench coach for the Mets and the Angels were on their memorable run to their first World Series title.

Baylor recalled watching the Angels on TV during Game 3 of the AL Division Series against the Yankees. With the series tied at one game apiece and back at what was then called Edison Field, New York silenced the crowd by taking a 6-1 lead in the third inning. The Angels came right back, however, chipping away until they won, 9-6. They took Game 4, then won the ALCS over the Minnesota Twins before beating the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.

"As soon as the Yankees took that lead and [the Angels] came back, I told my wife they were going to win the whole thing," said Baylor. "I just had a feeling."

Baylor's predictions have proven prophetic before.

In 1977, when he first came to the Angels, he visited a local dentist, who asked him if he'd like to use his standing in the Orange County community to get involved with a charity to fight cystic fibrosis.

"It's kind of hard to say no when you're sitting in a dentist's chair," said Baylor. "I didn't know how to say it or spell it or know what it was, but the next thing you know, I'm knocking on doors."

Almost 30 years later, the 65 Roses Sports Club, led by Baylor, continues to be a force. Named after the term children use to pronounce the disease, 65 Roses started with a strong local group of donors, including former President Richard Nixon, a native of Whittier, Calif., who Baylor says would have checks sent to Baylor's locker via courier.

The club now boasts celebrities from all professional sports leagues, including hockey, football, baseball and basketball. Since its inception, the club's annual golf tournament in Anaheim has generated more than $1.8 million for cystic fibrosis research. For his efforts, Baylor was awarded baseball's Roberto Clemente Award in 1985.

"When I first got involved with it, the life expectancy of children with cystic fibrosis was 8," said Baylor. "Now it's 30, so we've made progress."

Baylor has made plenty of progress, too.

In March 2003, Baylor was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow, but treatments -- including a bone-marrow transplant -- have worked to the point where he just last week received a beautiful phone call.

"I got a call from my doctor who did the transplant exactly one year ago," said Baylor of the news he received on Feb. 5. "There is absolutely no presence of multiple myeloma in my body whatsoever. We sat down and drank a bottle of champagne and celebrated. I'm just thrilled."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.