Dusty Baker was sitting in the dugout, looking down and making a note, as his coaches and support staff spontaneously mopped up, chanting his name, as the Houston Astros clinched the World Series victory on Saturday.
“I feel good, these guys are the best guys, they always believe. This is for my mom and my dad, my mom who died in January and my brother and all my boys,” he said afterward, hugging his wife and high-fiving those rushing to congratulate him.
“God, it matters,” Baker continued, turning to the ESPN reporter with a broad smile. “It’s a wonderful thing.”
The 73-year-old accomplished everything else: the only coach in MLB history to lead five different teams to the postseason and win division titles with five different clubs, the first black coach to win 2,000 career games and one of only two individuals. He had 1,800 hits as a player and 1,800 wins as a manager in MLB history.
“I mean, I’ve got 2,000 wins and all they’re saying is I haven’t won a World Series yet, you know?” he said before the game, according to MLB.com. “So, yes, it is important. People care. We care.”
With the win, Baker became the third Black man to win a World Series behind Dave Roberts and Cito Gaston.
“My mother, she told me many times, to be African-American, you have to be twice as good to get the same thing,” he later said. “I heard that over and over again.”
Baker came tantalizingly close to capturing that elusive World Series title, reaching the final hurdle twice: in 2002 with the San Francisco Giants, 5-0 and eight out of the game at one point in Game 6, and in 2021 with the Astros.
For almost 30 years since taking charge of his first team in 1993 – the Giants – Baker has achieved that goal that eluded him every time he reached for a touchdown.
He was a crowd favorite, loved throughout baseball for his empathy and thoughtfulness, who everyone rooted for but always seemed to finish second.
Astros outfielder and first baseman Trey Mancini detailed Baker’s kindness to his players in an interview with The Athletic.
Some players on the team like banana pudding, Mancini said, so Baker would buy it for them on the road and leave it in their lockers while he brought Mancini a rosary while visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
For an Astros team that was in the way of a 2017 World Series title, when MLB discovered the franchise had illegally created a system that decoded and communicated opposing teams’ pitching signals, Baker proved to be the perfect antidote.
“When he came here in 2020, we had the whole cheating scandal and we had Covid,” Lance McCullers Jr. said. rookies, according to the New York Times.
“He was a stabilizing force for us. I wish we had done it a little earlier for him, but he really deserved this.’
And with this World Series title, Baker is not only MLB’s oldest coach, but also older than any other coach who has won a Super Bowl, NBA championship or Stanley Cup.
“I knew that would happen sooner or later, you stay long enough and you have good teams. I told him, if I win one, I want to win two, so we can go for two, we’ll see,” he said later.
Before becoming a coach, Baker had a successful playing career, winning a World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981 and having the most two World Series wins as a player or manager in his 40-year career, according to the Elias Sports Bureau . .
“I’m so glad it took this long,” Baker added. “If this had happened a year ago, I might not be here.
“Maybe it shouldn’t have happened, so I was hoping to be able to impact the lives and families of a few young men and a lot of people around the country, showing what perseverance and character can do for you.”