Dusty Baker four World Series crown wins and deserved immortality
“Music is a big part of my life,” Baker said Monday. “It’s a big part of setting the mood and the tone for what I need. Sometimes I need jazz to calm me down or blues, or I need something to cheer me up.
It’s no coincidence that the 2Pac song that landed on Baker’s playlist was “Picture Me Rollin ‘”. Consider the lyrics:
Can you see me now? (Oh, imagine me rolling)
Move a bit to the side to get a clear picture
Can you see it?
Imagine me rolling (Imagine me rolling).
That’s really what this World Series is for Baker, a chance to pass it on the side so baseball can have the clearest picture yet of Johnnie B. Baker Jr.
Baker has the most wins, 1,987, of any manager not to win the World Series. Not that there were no opportunities.
He was six out of a championship with the San Francisco Giants in 2002 before the then Anaheim Angels returned. A year later, managing the Cubs, Baker needed five strikeouts to return to the series when a seemingly innocuous Wrigley Field fan rushed in for a foul ball and chaos ensued.
Now he’s back on the series with the Astros, this time planning his own comeback to topple the Red Sox last week.
Win four matches and Baker won’t leave any questions about who he is or where he is.
Only 11 managers in history have won more matches, and all of them are Hall of Fame members apart from three-time World Series winner Bruce Bochy, which is a formality.
Win those World Series and Baker will present some irrefutable credentials once he lands on the ballot. There will be substance behind the whole style.
You know the style. Baker last performed in 1986, but still wears thick bracelets with his uniform to hide what he considers skinny forearms. He works an all-game toothpick, having quit smoking a long time ago, and looks at the ground behind tinted glasses, sometimes from the bottom of the canoe just to get another look.
Baker was out of the game for two years, fired by the Washington Nationals after winning 97 games in 2017. The Phillies were interested heading into the 2020 season, but opted for Joe Girardi.
The Astros were Last Chance U., having fired manager AJ Hinch after the extent of their cheating in 2017 was revealed. Baker’s personality and reputation was a practical shield against the abuse they would face, and his keen sense was needed to pull another championship out of a core of talented players.
It worked. The Astros qualified for the ALCS last season and took the Rays to seven games before winning 95 games this season. They are 7-3 in the playoffs.
“When I first got there I was more like an uncle then I became more like a father,” Baker said. “So I’m kinda between a father and maybe even a grandfather. But I’m probably a little too cool to be a grandpa right now.
It will be a family series for Baker, who played for the Braves from 1968 to 1975. His teammate at the time, Ralph Garr, is a Braves scout and dear friend. Their joint mentor was Hall of Fame member Hank Aaron, who died in January.
Baker had no intention of signing with the Braves in 1967. As a young black progressive northern California, he saw no future in playing in the Deep South during those turbulent times. It wasn’t until Aaron called Baker’s house and promised him that he would watch over him that the deal was done.
“I think about him all the time, especially on a show like this. I can feel his presence, especially him and my dad, ”said Baker. “He had a huge impact not only on the baseball field, but in my life, in my family and in business. I will be eternally grateful to him.
Now Baker has Aaron again looking over his shoulder as he seeks to fill the only void in his career. Win these World Series and Baker will surely step onto the Cooperstown stage one day.
Would a championship purify the Astros? Probably not. It would be their manager.
“You play the game for the love of the game and the love of winning, and they’re about to win, and I’m about to win,” Baker said. “My goal has always been to earn my whole life.
“I mean, it’s perfect for both of us.”