The Houston Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies to win the World Championship, Johnny B. “Dusty” Baker Jr. finally got a title as a manager. He’s been to the Fall Classic twice before, with the Astros last year and SF . giants Back in 2002. And now Dusty is the oldest coach to win a world championship for the first time, because he’s the oldest coach to ever win it.
Former Giant Mauricio Dupont also won his first ring, helping Houston appoint the Astros as a defensive substitute in the late innings. Dubón appeared in two matches but did not take a single hit. The only chance he tackled was sending an Alec Boom fly ball in the ninth inning of Houston’s Game Two victory. The Giants traded Dupont to the Astros for catcher Mike Papersky earlier this year.
The Giants got Dubon on the trade deadline in 2019. He played quality defense in a short position, second base, and center court, although his hitting and running hits were often lackluster. However, he won the AAA Championship with the Sacramento Rivercats last year and was a contributor to the record-setting Giants team in 2021.
Dusty Becker entered baseball in 1968 as a 19-year-old quarterback with the Atlanta Braves and became a regular baseball player in 1972, playing alongside Hank Aaron and future Giants coach Sonny Jackson. He became a star after a business deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, winning three world championships. He also won a pair of Silver Sluggers, a Gold Glove, and made two All-Star games. Baker had great success with the Bad Giants in 1984 before ending his career with the Oakland A-team in 1985-86.
Becker became a stockbroker after his retirement, but then the general manager of SF Giants, Al Rosen, convinced him to take a job as the team’s first head coach, after which the coach hit. These giants reached the World Championships in 1989, and when new ownership took over in late 1992, Baker became the new manager, a job he held for ten years. His first season saw the Giants win 103 games and miss the playoffs in a heartbreaking fashion.
Baker won Manager of the Year in his first season, won it again when the Giants surprisingly beat NL West in 1997, and won a third time when they won the title in 2000. They also lost a playoff in 1998 – thanks Neifi Perez – and arrived to the World Championships in his last season, 2002.
Dusty had a few trademarks—sunglasses, permanent toothpicks in his mouth—but his real strength was using his entire roster. He glorified aging Ellis Birx by using Armando Rios as his legs, leaning on super subs as Ramon Martinez, and extended GT Snow’s career by persuading him to stop pressing the switch. Baker also managed Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent for six years and they only had one fight, a master’s degree in diplomacy.
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But the Giants failed in the playoffs. In 1997, there was nothing he could do about a one-year strength for the Florida Marlins. In 2000 Shawn Estes forgot to slip, Rios tried to go from second to third in the grilder, and the Giants couldn’t solve bowler Bobby Jones. Two of the three losses came in additional innings.
He made the 2002 World Championship as a team, defeating Bobby Cox’s Braves and Cardinal Tony La Russa along the way. (This led NLCS to have La Russa throwing his bartender at Kenny Lofton for years, because Lofton celebrated a home run emphatically.) At the World Championships, Becker made two fatal mistakes: he handed the match ball to Ross Ortiz in Game Six, when he pulled him with a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning. Then Levan Hernandez started on Kirk Reuter in Game 7.
The Giants parted ways with Dusty after the season, and he led the Cubs to the NLCS — the first series they’ve won in a postseason in 95 years. But it collapsed into another game when Moises’ Steve Bartman stole Alo, Alex Gonzalez missed a ball and the Marlins rallied to win their last two games.
Take the other teams to the playoffs, too. The Cincinnati Reds won the league in 2010 and 2012, having lost to Roy Halladay’s no-hit and Buster Posey grand slam, respectively. Amazingly, Dusty was on both sides of a playoff harmless now, after Cristian Javier & Company’s outstanding performance at Game Four this year. The Reds lost Cardinals in 2013, and Dusty Nationals Washington lost to the Cubs in 2017.
Houston hired Baker for the 2020 season after AJ Hinch was fired following the Astros’ cheating schedule. They made it to the ALCS in 2020, lost the world championship in 2021, and finally won it this year.
Along the way, Baker beat cancer, set up a solar company, overcame heart problems and a mini-stroke, founded his own winery, and won more than 2,000 games. He made his young son (Darren Baker) a legendary bat boy after a cancer scare – JT Snow saved his life and knocked him off the home plate in the 2002 series – and now Baker plays for the Nationals.
Becker has become a target of analytically-minded critics for “bowler abuse,” and appears to discourage walking. But his troupe went a long way! And some of the shooters he blamed for “vandalism” either didn’t promote it for long (Kerry Wood) or held full decades after offending Dusty (Levan Hernandez).
Perhaps at the age of 73, after finally winning a managerial ring, Baker will earn proper recognition for being a good MLB manager for three decades. He didn’t have to check his career in this tournament – but it’s a good thing he did.