The foul ball had barely dropped into the hustling glove of Kyle Tucker and the celebration inside Minute Maid Park was rocking late Saturday.
There were pockets of celebration everywhere after the Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 to win their second World Series title, in the stands and on the baseball field. But the one that was most heartfelt was taking place in the Astros’ dugout with the players jumping all over their 73-year manager Dusty Baker.
“Dusty has been unbelievable since Day 1,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said Saturday night. “He’s been an unbelievable manager, an unbelievable human being just on a personal level with every person in our clubhouse, he loves the game of baseball, he has dedicated his life to this game and he deserves it. He’s an unbelievable manager and unbelievable man.”
As much as this World Series win was about the club finally distancing itself from the 2017 sign-stealing scandal, this one was about winning one for baseball lifer Dusty Baker. After 25 years of managing, Baker finally won his first world championship, becoming just the third African-American manager in Major League Baseball history to do so.
But most impressive are the circumstances that have all but cemented Baker’s place in Cooperstown. A few years ago, the man who had done nothing but win as a manager seemed to have been basically put into forced retirement because no club wanted him and then the Astros came calling in 2020 with the franchise needing his dignity and reputation to steady the ship after the sign-stealing had rocked the club and its reputation.
Among his many accomplishments, Baker is now the oldest manager to win a World Series title.
“I’m tired of hearing it. ‘He doesn’t do this, he doesn’t do that.’ All I heard about what I can’t do,” said Baker, who first became a manager with the San Francisco Giants in 1993. “But my mom and dad taught me perseverance. And you gotta persevere, you gotta believe in yourself.”
There is no doubt Baker has always believed in himself. But the magic has been his ability to always get his players to believe in him, too.
Baker has won 2,093 games as a manager, led five different clubs to division titles and the postseason and he is a three-time Manager of the Year.
The only thing that had been missing was a World Series title, after falling five outs shorts with the Giants in 2002 and then last season with the Astros, Baker finally has his ring.
“I tried not to dwell on it, but I tried to have faith and perseverance in knowing that with the right team and the right personnel and right everything that this is going to happen,” said Baker, whose only World Series title win prior to Saturday came as a player with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981. “Had this happened years ago, I might not even be here. So maybe it wasn’t supposed to happen so that I could hopefully influence a few young men’s lives and their families and a number of different people in the country through showing what perseverance and character can do for you in the long run.”