Astros’ manager makes history with World Series win
Dusty Baker is known as one of baseball’s “good guys”
In guiding the Houston Astros to their first World Series crown since their infamous cheating scandal, Dusty Baker shed a dubious distinction.
No longer is Baker the winningest manager in major league baseball history never to win a world championship. The Astros finally got the California-born Baptist the ring that eluded him for 25 seasons—not all of them consecutively. The ’Stros completed their dismantling Saturday night of the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 in Game 6 of the Fall Classic at Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
At 73, Baker is now the oldest manager to capture a World Series title. He is also just the third black manager to do so, following Cito Gaston of the Toronto Blue Jays (1992 and ’93) and Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers (2020).
Entering the Series, Baker—the Astros’ manager since 2020—had a proven track record. He’d won 2,093 regular-season games, making him the winningest active manager after Tony LaRussa stepped down as the Chicago White Sox’s skipper back in October. Baker had also led four other teams—the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, and Washington Nationals—to postseason berths, making him the only manager in MLB history to guide five different teams to the playoffs, counting the Astros.
Still, Baker had never been able to land baseball’s biggest prize—at least not as a manager. (He won a World Series ring as a player with the Dodgers in 1981.) He came close twice: As the Giants’ manager in 2002, he came within a game of winning it all. San Francisco led the World Series three games to two before ultimately succumbing to the Anaheim (now Los Angeles) Angels. Last year, Baker led the Astros to the championship series—his first appearance since that 2002 title slipped away from him—but Houston fell to the Atlanta Braves in six games.
The 2002 World Series arguably marked the beginning of Baker’s reputation for being unable to win the games that mattered most: The Giants were up 5-0 in Game 6 before the Angels came back to win, force Game 7, and capture the only MLB title in team history.
As the Cubs’ manager the following season, Baker oversaw Chicago’s inglorious meltdown against the Florida (now Miami) Marlins in the National League Championship Series. The Cubs led that series three games to one and were just five outs away from their first World Series appearance since 1945 in Game 6 before committing several eighth-inning errors, allowing the Marlins to come from behind and win. Florida took Game 7 as well, then went on to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.
And in 2012, the Reds were up 2-0 on Baker’s former team, the Giants, before losing the National League Division Series in five games.
In 2001, Baker had surgery for prostate cancer. He returned to the Giants in time for spring training that year and has been cancer-free ever since.
Houston’s World Series victory all but erased the stain from the team’s lone previous championship, won against the Dodgers in 2017. Throughout the season, team employees used game feed from a hidden video camera placed beyond the center-field fence and trained on the visiting team’s dugout to observe and decode opposing teams’ signals. After relaying the signals’ meaning to players on the Astros’ bench, the players would bang on trash cans to let whoever was batting know what pitch was coming.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred did not strip the Astros of their World Series crown after finding them guilty of wrongdoing. However, the Astros did fire manager A.J. Hinch over the incident and brought in Baker to replace him.
Players, fans, and journalists universally hail Baker as one of the sport’s “good guys.” While home from Syracuse University and working as a 20-year-old cub reporter for a weekly newspaper in Fremont, Calif., in the summer of 1996, I went to San Francisco to interview Shawon Dunston, a Fremont resident and the Giants’ shortstop at the time. It was my first time in a major league locker room, and I didn’t know then that it’s standard procedure for managers to hold pregame media sessions. While Baker was holding court with other reporters in his office at Candlestick Park, I remained in the locker room interviewing players.
Moments after the last reporter left Baker’s office, I asked the Giants’ public relations man if I could have a minute of Baker’s time. The public relations man told me that the pregame media session was over, and Baker needed to get ready for the game.
No sooner had I turned, dejected, and started heading for the press box than the PR man beckoned me to come back: Baker had agreed to meet with me briefly. I came back, asked him a quick question or two about Dunston, then thanked him—and the PR man—and went on my way. It was a small gesture—one Baker has likely forgotten about since it happened 26 years ago. But this reporter hasn’t, and in light of Baker’s big moment, I couldn’t let it go unrecognized.
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