HOUSTON — Dusty Baker, then supervisor of the San Francisco Giants, had simply left the stadium after a crushing loss to the Anaheim Angels in Sport 7 of the 2002 World Collection when he met up along with his father.
Johnnie B. Baker Sr. didn’t mince phrases.
“He goes: ‘Man, after the best way (you) misplaced that one, I don’t know for those who’ll ever win one other one,” Baker recalled Sunday.
Nineteen years after that dialog and greater than a decade since his dad’s passing, Baker lastly has an opportunity to show incorrect the daddy he cherished so dearly.
He’ll get the chance beginning tonight when he leads the Houston Astros in opposition to the Atlanta Braves within the World Collection.
The 72-year-old Baker has considered that dialog usually over time. And because the Astros dispatched the Pink Sox on Friday night time to achieve their third Fall Basic in 5 years, his father’s phrases have grown even louder in his head.
“In order that’s been my motivation,” Baker mentioned.
That is Baker’s second journey to the Collection as a supervisor. As a participant, he went 3 times with the Dodgers, successful all of it as a big-hitting left fielder in 1981.
In an illustrious profession as a star participant and skipper spanning greater than 50 years, successful a World Collection as a supervisor is just about the one field left open for Baker.
“I do know,” he mentioned. “So I simply (have to) go forward and verify it.”
Added Corridor of Famer Reggie Jackson, the unique Mr. October who now works as a particular adviser to Astros proprietor Jim Crane: “I do assume it might make a beautiful addition to his resume.”
Houston star shortstop Carlos Correa, who turns into a free agent at season’s finish, is intent on serving to Baker add this accomplishment to the again of his baseball card.
“He’s been round a very long time and nonetheless doesn’t have accomplished for him.”
It’s been a whirlwind two years for Baker, who after being fired by the Nationals following a 97-win season in 2017 puzzled if he’d ever even get one other shot to handle, a lot much less win that elusive title.
Again residence in Northern California, as he labored on his wine enterprise and grew collard greens in his backyard, he usually felt perplexed he had been handed over for interviews so many occasions as managerial openings got here and went, having made inquiries that he mentioned had been unanswered over time.
Baker figured his age and wage at this stage of his life is likely to be sufficient to show off many potential basic managers and entrance workplaces.
“Do you ever make peace with it?” he as soon as mentioned. “You make peace, however it makes you form of lose some religion in mankind, between proper and incorrect. And also you notice on the planet, particularly on this new world, there’s all the time been discrimination, race discrimination, however it looks like on this new world there’s age and wage discrimination, which go hand in hand.”
It was throughout this time that his father’s phrases rang in his ears.
“I considered it the entire time after I didn’t know if I’d get again to this enterprise,” he mentioned.
Then got here January 2019 and the beautiful revelation that the Astros had illicitly stolen indicators of their run to the 2017 World Collection championship and once more in 2018. The dishonest scandal price supervisor A.J. Hinch his job, leaving a staff with an nearly unfathomable picture drawback in want of a robust chief.
Crane discovered that chief in Baker, a person who now ranks twelfth all-time in managerial wins and has taken 5 groups to the playoffs. In final 12 months’s COVID-19-shortened season, the Astros squeaked into the postseason as a wild-card staff earlier than heating up in playoffs to return one win shy of reaching the World Collection.
“The primary time I met him, we talked for nearly two hours, and I knew he was the precise man instantly,” Crane mentioned. “Nothing bothered him as a result of he had been via a lot.”
And this week his path comes full circle as he meets the staff that drafted him out of highschool in 1967 and the place he spent the primary eight seasons of a 19-year enjoying profession.
It was with the Braves that he obtained his first main league hit a couple of miles from Minute Maid Park within the now-defunct Astrodome as a 19-year-old on Sept. 17, 1968, with “just a little dribbler off Mike Cuellar.”
However maybe most significantly it was the place he started a lifelong friendship with the good Hank Aaron, who died in January at 86. It was Aaron who persuaded Baker to signal with the Braves as a substitute of pursuing a university basketball profession.
“I used to be chosen to be with Hank,” he mentioned.
Baker was on deck and among the many Braves congregated on the plate to rejoice with Aaron on April 8, 1974, when he hit his 715th residence run to cross Babe Ruth for many all-time.
Baker is an All-Star name-dropper, having casually talked about interactions with 11-time NBA champ Invoice Russell, basketball Corridor of Famer Moses Malone and John F. Kennedy Jr. in latest months. He likes all fields, referencing soul singer Eddie Kendricks over the weekend.
However there’s nobody Baker revels in speaking about greater than Hammerin’ Hank.
Aaron took Baker below his wing, reiterating most of the classes Baker’s father had shared with him, equivalent to the worth of honesty and serving to others. However he additionally offered a guidebook for navigating the Deep South as a Black man within the Sixties. It was a lesson Baker wanted having grown up California.
“Simply life and being a proud African American, however not carrying that in your sleeve as a result of it’s already in your face,” Baker mentioned.
Baker finds it becoming that he’ll return to Atlanta with the baseball world watching and appears ahead to seeing Aaron’s spouse and youngsters on the journey.
“It is rather particular to return to Atlanta,” he mentioned. “That is going to be a storybook ending actually for all of us.”
The Astros are baseball’s villains, jeered at each stadium for his or her dishonest and hated by most outdoors of Houston. However Baker is so universally appreciated across the recreation that some are begrudgingly cheering for the Astros this week merely due to the veteran supervisor.
“There’s loads of damaging on the market, however there’s additionally lots of people for us, too,” Baker mentioned. “There’s lots of people pulling for me.”
Brandon Phillips, a retired three-time All-Star second baseman, who performed for Baker for six seasons in Cincinnati, is actually a type of folks.
He’s thrilled to see the person he thought of a father determine get one other probability as a result of he was fearful it’d by no means come.
“For him to make the most of the state of affairs … particularly with all of the issues that went on with that group, for him to return there and alter that throughout actually reveals you his character and what sort of supervisor and what sort of man he actually is,” Phillips mentioned.
He is aware of the dishonest scandal will all the time be a part of the Astros story, however he believes Baker helped restore a few of the wounds on the franchise.
“Dusty was the precise man for this job as a result of he’ll change your mindset from the damaging and make it constructive,” Phillips mentioned. “That (scandal) won’t ever be forgotten, however all you are able to do is go by the now and see they’re the place they’re now as a result of they’re a terrific staff and Dusty is the glue.”
Baker’s spouse, Melissa, and son, Darren, who simply performed his first season of professional ball within the Nationals system, attended the ALCS video games and now are collectively in Houston to be a part of this particular time.
“I used to be speaking to my dad about it extra the subsequent morning and simply placing every little thing into perspective, it’s like a film,” Darren Baker mentioned by telephone Sunday. “It’s unbelievable. After which Hank Aaron and enjoying the Braves, it’s fairly loopy.”
The youthful Baker made headlines in his dad’s final World Collection journey when the 3-year-old was serving as a bat boy and needed to be snatched from residence plate by J.T. Snow to keep away from being hit by David Bell.
Household is every little thing to Baker, who added “Jr.” to his jersey earlier than final season as a nod to his beloved father. As he sat within the dugout Sunday lengthy after all of the gamers had completed their work, he was requested if he thinks his dad will likely be trying down on him as he returns to the World Collection with the tribute to him emblazoned on a again that’s been via a lot in additional than a half-century within the recreation.
“Oh yeah,” he mentioned flashing a large grin. “Heck, yeah he’ll.”