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A Tribute to Baseball Legend Dusty Baker, 74:‘Who Is Cooler ... ? No One’

NBC sportscaster Bob Costas salutes Baker, who is the oldest manager to win the World Series

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Rob Carr

Over a 19-year career as a player, Dusty Baker had a batting average of .278 and knocked in over 1,000 runs. That’s a very good career. But beyond that, Dusty is connected to so much of baseball’s history. Among the countless examples I could cite, as a young player he was actually a teammate of the legendary Negro league pitcher Satchel Paige, whom the Atlanta Braves signed to a deal in the ’60s when Satchel himself was in his 60s, so that he might qualify for a pension.

Dusty was in the on-deck circle in 1974 when Hank Aaron connected for his 715th home run, breaking the record set by Babe Ruth. He played for iconic managers Tommy Lasorda and Tony LaRussa, and then managed superstars Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Bryce Harper — and more recently, Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Justin Verlander.

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Outside the game, Baker is a man of broad tastes. Walk into his office, and Miles Davis might be playing, but so too might the Allman Brothers. And Dusty can spin a yarn in a way that would have Buck O’Neil (beloved player and storyteller famous for his role in Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary) himself at rapt attention. He’ll tell you about Willie Mays and Aaron, sure, but also about the time he smoked a joint with Jimi Hendrix. He’s the only manager in baseball history to take five different teams, the Giants, Cubs, Reds, Nationals and now the Astros, into the postseason.

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Over a 19-year career as a player, Baker had a batting average of .278 and knocked in over 1,000 runs.

But until 2022, all those postseasons had ended in disappointment, some heartbreakingly so, and for a while, it seemed that “so close and yet so far” would be part of Dusty Baker’s story. Baker himself, almost always calm and collected, never publicly let on how much that one missing piece bothered him. But it did. In fact, he was convinced it would keep him out of the Hall of Fame.

Then came a positive that grew out of the 2017 Houston Astros cheating scandal. In the aftermath, the Astros needed not just a new manager but one whose presence and reputation would help restore theirs. The Astros needed Dusty and he needed them, an excellent team that gave him one more shot at a World Series ring.

After 25 years as a major league manager, Baker finally won a World Series championship with the Astros in 2022.

And at age 73, he became the oldest man ever to manage a World Series–winning team. The one line that might otherwise have been missing on what is now certain to be his Hall of Fame plaque had been filled in. This year, his Astros came within a game of returning to the World Series for a third straight year. After the Game 7 loss to the Rangers, Dusty announced his retirement. Beyond his statistical achievements, he will always be remembered as one of the game’s most singular and respected figures.

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During the 2022 World Series, Justin Verlander posed a rhetorical question and then answered it himself. “Who is cooler than Dusty Baker? No one.”

And how cool was it that this great citizen of the game finally reached baseball’s summit?

— Adapted from HBO's Back on the Record with Bob Costas

spinner image dusty baker and the astros win the world series
After 25 years as a major league manager, Baker finally won a World Series championship with the Houston Astros in 2022.
Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup for Fox Sports/Shutterstock

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