The foul ball had barely dropped into the hustling glove of Kyle Tucker and the celebration inside Minute Maid Park was rocking.
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-old manager Dusty Baker.
“Dusty has been unbelievable since Day 1,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said. “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.
But most impressive is the circumstance that has 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 the 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.
“I’m tired of hearing it. ‘He doesn’t do this, he doesn’t do that.’ All I heard about [was] 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,” Baker said of his pursuit for a world championship.
“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.”
What people are saying
“He’s put a lot of blood, sweat and tears and the game almost killed him when he had a stroke in 2017. So just to see all of this come together – he’s worked so hard and if anybody earned it…it’s him.” — Dusty Baker’s wife, Melissa.
“Dusty Baker has been such a great manager for so long. You just kind of just assume that he had won a World Series and led his team multiple times. But for this to be his first one is pretty special. It couldn’t happen to a better guy. Excited for our Astros.” — Texans coach Lovie Smith
“Today was a very historical day for the African American community. I’ve already met with my president, my board chairman today, to look at giving Dusty an honorary doctor’s degree from TSU this December, in honor of what he’s accomplished for not just for the Astros, but for the whole athletic community.” — Texas Southern Board of Regent Ron Price
“When he came here in 2020, we had the whole cheating scandal and we had COVID. He was a stabilizing force for us. I wish we could have done it a little bit sooner for him, but he truly deserved this.” — Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr.
Just the facts
- Dusty Baker becomes just the third African American manager to win a World Series title in MLB history, joining Cito Gaston (Blue Jays, 1992, 1993) and Dave Roberts (Dodgers 2020).
- At 73, Baker becomes the oldest manager to win a World Series championship.
What’s on deck for 2023
- It’s no longer a matter of if, but when Astros owner will work out a contract extension for Baker, whose current deal with the club ended with the World Series title.
- Astros must determine which of their free agents are a priority to retain. Set to hit the free agent market are Michael Brantley, Jason Castro, Aledmys Diaz, Yulie Gurriel, Rafael Montero and Christian Vazquez.
- The Astros need to sign some U.S. born African American players to their roster. This was the first World Series since 1950, after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, that the American League and National League champs met in the Fall Classic and neither side had a U.S. born Black player on its roster.
- The odds makers have the Astros back in contention for the World Series title in 2023. But for the second straight year, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the favorites to win it all next year (+500). The Astros are just behind them at +550.
2022 Astros, World Series
2020 Dash, NWSL Challenge Cup Champions
2018 Dynamo, U.S. Open Cup
2017 Astros, World Series
2007 Dynamo, MLS Champions
2006 Dynamo, MLS Champions
2003 Aeros, AHL Champions
2000 Comets, WNBA Champions
1999 Comets, WNBA Champions
1999 Aeros, IHL Champions
1998 Comets, WNBA Champions
1997 Comets, WNBA Champions
1995 Rockets, NBA Champions
1994 Rockets, NBA Champions
1974 Aeros, WHA Champions
1961 Oilers, AFL Champions
1960 Oilers, AFL Champions