The year was 1968. September rolled around and a young man by the name of Dusty Baker, at the ripe age of 19 years old, stepped on an MLB field for the first time. He was in an Atlanta Braves jersey and at the beginning of an incredible journey that would span decades.
We will no longer be able to tune into MLB games and find Dusty Baker sitting at the top step of the dugout chomping on toothpicks or tending to his plants prior to first pitch. After 26 seasons of calling the shots for numerous ball clubs, Baker has announced his retirement and we have officially reached the end of an era.
Baker played for the Braves from 1968-1975. Over this stretch, he hit .278 with 77 home runs and 324 runs batted in. He will forever be a part of Braves country as he was famously on deck when Henry Aaron hit his 715th home run, setting a new MLB record.
In 2023, Baker may be known more for his success as a manager but we can't go without mentioning how good the two-time all-star, two-time Silver Slugger, Gold Glove winner, and NLCS MVP as a player. What may have felt like the ending of his story was just a segue into the next chapter of excellence.
After a total of 19 successful seasons in the big leagues, Dusty Baker decided to hang up the cleats at the age of 37. Seven short years later, Baker was back in major league ballparks, only this time as the manager for the San Fransisco Giants.
In his first season at the helm, the Giants went 103-59. Dusty decided he could get used to those results and set out to stay a consistent winner for the rest of his managerial career.
Between time with the Giants, Cubs, Reds, Nationals, and Astros, Baker stepped away with an impressive 2,183 victories. He won three League Championship Series, one World Series, and three Manager of the Year recognitions.
Much like Ron Washington, Dusty Baker can attribute his success to the positive relationships he was always willing to build with his players and staff. It will be very different to not have Baker around the game but at the age of 74 and fond memories in the rearview mirror, we all want him to have what he deserves: a restful, enjoyable retirement and more time with family.
Dusty's son, Darren Baker, is in the minor leagues for the Washington Nationals and fans just might catch his father at more of his games moving forward.