A 25-year quest for Dusty Baker finally ended Saturday night. When the Houston Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 in Game 6 of the World Series. Baker had previously held the dubious distinction of the most wins in managerial history (2,093) without a World Series title. He’d come close before, and is the only manager to win 100 games with teams in both leagues, as well as the only one to lead five different teams to division titles.
But he’d never been the ultimate winner until Saturday night. He joined Cito Gaston and Dave Roberts at the only Black managers to win World Series titles. That the win came during this World Series had a particular irony. The 2022 World Series was the first one since 1950 in which neither squad had an American born Black player. There were Black Latin players on both teams, particularly the Astros, and frequently after Houston victories, player interviews were conducted in other languages with a translator.
But no translator was necessary to express the joy that Baker felt after his team got the final out. When asked how it felt now that he was a World Series winner at last (as a manager) Baker responded “Now they can stop talking about it.” Baker is a baseball lifer and legend. Some of the people whom he knew include Henry Aaron and Willie Mays. Baker played with Orlando Cepeda (born 1937) and managed Jeremy Peña (born 1997). He struck up a friendship with then-62-year-old Satchel Paige as a rookie in Atlanta in 1968, soaking up knowledge from the Negro Leagues great 33 years his senior. Telling the story of baseball’s history is impossible without noting Baker’s contributions as both a player and manager. He once partied with Jimi Hendrix, loves jazz, and considers Snoop Dogg one of his friends, as well as Michelle Obama.
He’s an old school soul, but has come to terms with today’s analytics-dominated era. At 73, he remains eager and interested in both the sport and society as a whole. He spoke out about the lack of African American players in the sport, saying he “was ashamed at baseball,” and talked about his heritage and the great Black Americans he’d known and been mentored by.
Still, his current job almost didn’t happen. Dusty Baker was out of baseball when the Astros were seeking a new manager after firing A.J. Hinch in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal in 2020, Baker was tapped by team owner Jim Crane to lead the team. Three years later, he’s led Houston to its second World Series title in six years, this one free of any taint.
As the ALCS trophy was handed to Crane on the field at Yankee Stadium in late October, the Astros’ players let out a boisterous “Dusty!” chant. Because he’s been a manager so long, only longtime fans remember that Baker as a player was on a World Series champion, and also was once voted MVP of the NCLS series. Among his many milestones, there have been over his 44-year baseball career16 playoff appearances. He became the oldest manager to ever manage a World Series game this year. Baker is just 101 wins away from moving to No. 6 on the all-time managerial wins list.
At the start of the season, it was widely assumed that Baker would be retiring at the end of the season, whether Houston won or lost the World Series. But in recent days, Baker has indicated he’s open to returning and trying to -duplicate another record. If he won a second title he would join Gaston as the only Black managers to win consecutive World Series titles.
But no matter what happens in the future, Dusty Baker is now a champion, both as a player and as a manager.