This one's for Dusty
After coming so close before, Dusty Baker is a world champion manager.
This one was for Dusty.
Baker, a baseball icon, had managed for 25 seasons and won 2,093 games without leading a team to the title.
He came close before, most notably 2002 and 2003, when the Giants and Cubs collapsed short of the finish line.
But now, with Houston's 4-1 victory in Game Six of the World Series, Baker can fill in the only missing line on his hall of fame resume: world champion manager.
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He didn’t even make it out of the dugout to celebrate on the field Saturday before being swarmed. Players and personnel formed a circle around him.
This was a win for Houston. But this was Dusty’s moment.
The toothpick-chomping, high-five originating Johnnie B. Baker Jr. was the perfect person to lead Houston after the franchise faced the fallout from a sign-stealing scandal in the years following the team's diminished 2017 championship.
The perfect manager to bring stability.
To move forward.
The longtime Braves and Dodgers outfielder is an original, that's for sure. You won't find many managers today who smoked a joint with Jimi Hendrix. Who befriended Hammerin' Hank. Who spent his time away from baseball gardening. And who kept coming back, even when the game has been so cruel and so unforgiving.
During the postgame ceremony, after the obligatory boos of commissioner Rob Manfred, the celebration turned to Baker, and he let out a primal, exhausted scream that felt like it was decades in the making.
This was for all of the lost years, all of the near-misses, all of the heartache. For continuing to keep going. Again. And. Again.
The win offered Baker a chance to think of three of the most impactful people in his life, his parents and of Hank Aaron, who've all died in recent years.
For all of the hatred and vitriol against the Astros this postseason, Dusty was immune. Dusty was that "I'll be happy for him if they win" guy.
And now, everyone can be happy for him.