As Fast as You Can Say 'Jackie Robinson' . . .

In 19 years in the big leagues, he got 255 hits and batted in 1,276 runs. Go figure. OK, 255 was the number of times Don Baylor got hit by a pitch-a bruising major-league record. He's never backed off the inside fast ball-and that's just one reason he's eminently qualified to be a manager. Last week, having narrowly missed the to s a few times elsewhere, he finally connected. The Colorado Rockies, one of two National League expansion teams making their debuts next spring, named Baylor, 43, as skipper.

He got to work immediately. "I remember thinking at 3 or 4 in the morning who was going to be my leadoff guy," says the man with a mile-high grin, "and then I started to put my lineup together." Good planning-except, as he concedes, "we don't even know who our players are yet."

Once, Baylor's appointment would have been startling. When Dodgers executive Al Campanis said on "Nightline" in 1987 that blacks might lack the "necessities" required of major-league managers, there had only been three in history. Despite the furor over the comment (Campanis was fired), it was more than two years before another black, Cito Gaston, took over a team. He has been joined by three more: Felipe Alou of the Montreal Expos, Hal McRae of the Kansas City Royals and now Baylor. (And last week the Cincinnati Reds named as manager Cuban-born Tony Perez, one of the rare Latinos given the reins.) But the best indication that baseball's complexion is finally changing came when Gaston's Toronto Blue Jays won their first World Series: the manager's race was scarcely mentioned as fans relished the real news-that the "Blow Jays" finally came through in the clutch.