Dusty Baker

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Johnnie B. Baker Jr.

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Biographical Information[edit]

Outfielder Dusty Baker was a two-time All-Star during a long playing career. Following his playing days, he spent even more time as a big league manager, leading the San Francisco Giants to the 2002 World Series.

Playing Career[edit]

Baker grew up in Sacramento, California and starred in baseball, basketball, football, and track in high school there. He was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 26th round of the 1967 amateur draft and made his pro debut that summer, hitting .231 in 9 games with the Austin Braves. He reached the majors late the following year, going 2-for-5 in 6 games as a 19-year-old. He had several more cups of coffee with the club over the next three years before finally sticking in the majors for good in 1972. He became the Braves' regular centerfielder that year and responded by hitting .321 (third-best in the National League) with 17 home runs. The next summer, he hit 21 homers and drove in a career-high 99 runs. However, he regressed over the following two seasons, and Atlanta, who had hopes that he would be the next Hank Aaron, dealt him to the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of a six-player trade after the 1975 season.

Baker had a horrendous first season with the Dodgers in 1976, hitting only .242 with just 4 home runs. However, the club stuck with him, and he responded by hitting .291 with 30 homers in 1977; that year, he was part of the first foursome of teammates (along with Ron Cey, Reggie Smith, and Steve Garvey) to each have at least 30 round trippers. During that year's NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies, he hit .357 with a pair of home runs and was named the Series MVP. In the World Series, he hit .292 and added another homer, but the Dodgers fell to the New York Yankees.

Baker's numbers dipped to a .262 batting average and 11 home runs in 1978, but he again starred in the NLCS. Facing the Phillies again, he hit .467 in the Series and went 4-for-5 in Game Four as Los Angeles again advanced to the World Series. He homered in Game One of the rematch with the Yankees but only hit .238 overall as the Dodgers again came up short. He hit 29 home runs for the club in 1980 and finished fourth in NL Most Valuable Player voting. The next year, he posted a .320 average in the strike-shortened season, and his team went on to win the World Series.

Baker became a free agent in early 1984 and soon signed with the San Francisco Giants. He hit .292 with just 3 home runs for them, but in a June 27th game against the Cincinnati Reds, he stole three bases in the third inning to tie a major league record. After one year with the Giants, he was traded across the bay to the Oakland Athletics, for whom he played his final two big league seasons.

Based on similarity scores, the most similar player to Baker is Gary Matthews Sr., a player who came to Atlanta's outfield shortly after Baker left the Braves.

Managerial Career[edit]

After spending 1987 working as a stockbroker, Baker joined the Giants coaching staff under Roger Craig in 1988. He became the club's skipper in 1993. In his first year, he led the team to a 103-59 record and was named NL Manager of the Year. After sub-.500 performances the next three years, he led the team to a National League West title in 1997 and won another Manager of the Year award. His team captured another division title in 2000 and was the wild card in 2002, reaching the World Series in the latter year and falling to the Anaheim Angels. In a decade as Giants skipper, he won two division titles and finished in second place six other times.

Baker moved on to the Chicago Cubs in 2003 and led the team to a division title in his first year there. The Cubs came within one game of going to the World Series for the first time in 58 years, falling to the Florida Marlins in seven games in the NLCS. After winning 89 games in 2004, the club won progressively fewer games in each of the next two years, and Chicago failed to offer him a contract extension.

Baker in late 2008

After serving as a ESPN broadcaster during the 2007 season, Baker was hired as the Cincinnati Reds as manager on October 14th. In his third season at the helm, in 2010, he guided the Reds to their first NL Central division title since 1995, but the team was swept in the first round of the postseason, losing the NLDS to the Philadelphia Phillies after Roy Halladay opened the series by throwing the second postseason no-hitter in history. In 2012, he became the fourth person to get 1,500 hits as a MLB player and 1,500 wins managing in the majors, following Fred Clarke, Lou Piniella and Joe Torre. On September 19, 2012, with the Reds on the verge of clinching another NL Central title, he was hospitalized in Chicago, IL after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. Bench coach Chris Speier took over the team on an interim basis. He was released from hospital on September 23rd and rejoined his team before its game, although he let Speier, who had clinched the division title in the meantime, continue as skipper that night. It was later revealed the Baker had suffered a mild stroke while in hospital. He officially resumed his duties as manager on October 1st. The Reds lost the NLDS against the Giants in 5 games, after having taken the series' first two contests on the road. Baker's contract ended after the season, and there was speculation that he would move on because of the health concerns, but on October 15th, owner Bob Castellini announced that Dusty had accepted a two-year contract extension. However, he was fired after the Reds lost the 2013 Wild Card Game to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

His name resurfaced in the fall of 2015 when the Washington Nationals, who had been set to offer their managerial job to Bud Black, instead turned to him after negotiations with Black over salary and length of contract broke down. He signed a two-year deal on November 3rd to take over the managerial reins starting in 2016. He was taken over a very talented club that had won two division titles in recent years, but had underperformed badly in 2015. His steady and experienced hand helped calm things down, as the Nats quickly took over first place in the NL East and had a sizable lead by mid-season. They won a division title but were eliminated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series. 2017 was a carbon copy year, with Washington running away with the division title once again, only to be ousted in five games in the Division Series, this time by the Cubs. After that second early exit from the postseason, the Nationals announced on October 20th that he would not return to manage the team in 2018.

In civilian life, Dusty is a great music fan and has published a book about his experience at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival when he was a teenager and got to meet the great Jimi Hendrix. His son Darrell was born when he was well into his 40s and was already managing the Giants. In the 2002 World Series, Darrell famously served as a bat boy for the Giants even though he was only three, and was almost bowled over in Game 5 when he wandered too close to the plate as a Giants player was running home at full speed; J.T. Snow came swooping in and carried him out of harm's way. Major League Baseball then adopted a rule banning such young children from serving as bat boys, for safety reasons. In 2016, Darren reemerged in the news as he was about to enter his senior year of high school, as he was now a top-rated prospect in his age group, with a commitment to play for the University of California unless he was a top pick in the 2017 amateur draft. He was indeed selected in the draft, in the 27th round by the Nationals.

Two Jokes[edit]

  • What would you have if you got O.J. Simpson, Dusty Baker, and the architect of the old park in San Francisco together?

-- A butcher, a Baker, and a Candlestick maker.

-- They want to have a candy bar named after them.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time NL All-Star (1981 & 1982)
  • 1977 NLCS MVP
  • NL Gold Glove Winner (1981)
  • 2-time NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1980 & 1981)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 6 (1973, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1977)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1973)
  • Won a World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981
  • 3-time NL Manager of the Year Award (1993, 1997 & 2000)
  • Division Titles: 7 (1997, 2000, 2003, 2010, 2012, 2016 & 2017)
  • Other Post-season Appearances: 2 (2002 & 2013 - Wild Card)
  • NL Pennants: 1 (2002)
  • 100 Wins Seasons as Manager: 1 (1993)

Preceded by
Roger Craig
San Francisco Giants Manager
Succeeded by
Felipe Alou
Preceded by
Bruce Kimm
Chicago Cubs Manager
Succeeded by
Lou Piniella
Preceded by
Pete Mackanin
Cincinnati Reds Manager
Succeeded by
Bryan Price
Preceded by
Matt Williams
Washington Nationals Manager
Succeeded by
Dave Martinez

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs
1993 San Francisco Giants National League 103-59 2nd San Francisco Giants
1994 San Francisco Giants National League 55-60 2nd San Francisco Giants
1995 San Francisco Giants National League 66-77 4th San Francisco Giants
1996 San Francisco Giants National League 68-94 4th San Francisco Giants
1997 San Francisco Giants National League 90-72 1st San Francisco Giants Lost Division Series
1998 San Francisco Giants National League 89-74 2nd San Francisco Giants
1999 San Francisco Giants National League 86-76 2nd San Francisco Giants
2000 San Francisco Giants National League 97-65 1st San Francisco Giants Lost Division Series
2001 San Francisco Giants National League 90-72 2nd San Francisco Giants
2002 San Francisco Giants National League 95-66 2nd San Francisco Giants Lost World Series
2003 Chicago Cubs National League 88-74 1st Chicago Cubs Lost League Championship Series
2004 Chicago Cubs National League 89-73 3rd Chicago Cubs
2005 Chicago Cubs National League 79-83 4th Chicago Cubs
2006 Chicago Cubs National League 66-96 6th Chicago Cubs
2008 Cincinnati Reds National League 74-88 5th Cincinnati Reds
2009 Cincinnati Reds National League 78-84 4th Cincinnati Reds
2010 Cincinnati Reds National League 91-71 1st Cincinnati Reds Lost Division Series
2011 Cincinnati Reds National League 79-83 3rd Cincinnati Reds
2012 Cincinnati Reds National League 97-65 1st Cincinnati Reds Lost Division Series
2013 Cincinnati Reds National League 90-72 3rd Cincinnati Reds Lost Wild Card Game
2016 Washington Nationals National League 95-67 1st Washington Nationals Lost Division Series
2017 Washington Nationals National League 97-65 1st Washington Nationals Lost Division Series

Further reading[edit]

  • Dusty Baker (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, February 1985, pp. 30-32. [1]
  • Dusty Baker: Kiss the Sky: My Weekend in Monterey for the Greatest Rock Concert Ever, Wellstone Books, Soquel, CA, 2015. ISBN 978-0985419080
  • Richard Justice: "Respected Baker no consolation prize for Nats: New manager takes over talented club after 20 years of experience as skipper", mlb.com, November 3, 2015. [2]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Nationals hire Dusty Baker as new manager", USA Today Sports, November 3, 2015. [3]
  • Bob Nightengale: "After game left him behind, Dusty Baker still believes in his dreams", USA Today Sports, March 2, 2016. [4]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Nationals manager Dusty Baker aims for paybacks and pass to Hall of Fame", USA Today Sports, October 6, 2017. [5]
  • Bob Nightengale: "In firing Dusty Baker, Nationals' gutless arrogance on display", USA Today Sports, October 20, 2017. [6]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Dusty Baker 'faces the music' as Nationals come to town, but can't forget the sour notes", USA Today Sports, April 24, 2018. [7]

Related Sites[edit]