Dusty Baker nabs elusive championship with Astros' World Series win

Houston's victory in the 2022 Fall Classic marks the peak of Baker's 50-plus years in Major League Baseball.

Photo of Michael Shapiro
Dusty Baker Jr. of the Houston Astros smiles in the dugout after the Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 5-0 to win Game Four of the 2022 World Series at Citizens Bank Park on 

Dusty Baker Jr. of the Houston Astros smiles in the dugout after the Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 5-0 to win Game Four of the 2022 World Series at Citizens Bank Park on 

Al Bello/Getty Images

Dusty Baker followed his usual pregame regimen Saturday morning as the Houston Astros sat one win away from the second championship in franchise history.

The Astros manager made a stop at his favorite Rice Village coffee shop upon leaving his home, and he ran a few errands before heading to Minute Maid Park. Baker got a pair of shoes repaired, then stopped by his dry cleaners. The avid music fan then threw on a pregame playlist as he drove to the ballpark, which Baker said on Saturday included the Big Mama Thornton hit "Hound Dog" from 1952. Just hours before one of the biggest games of his life, Baker's pregame routine remained relatively mundane. 

It's hard to quibble with Baker's daily schedule given his historic success across a career matched by few in MLB history. Baker's life in baseball extends more than 50 years. He was a two-time All-Star as a player with 242 home runs across 19 seasons from 1968-86, and he sits No. 9 all-time in regular-season wins by a manager after 25 seasons. Baker won the World Series in 1981 as an outfielder for the Dodgers. Four decades later, his career reached its pinnacle with his first championship as a manager, secured with Saturday's 4-1 win over the Phillies in Game 6. 

Yet neither Baker's statistics as a player nor his impressive managerial record fully capture his impact on the sport over the last half century. Perhaps no living figure has been up-close for so much of the game's recent history, with Baker serving as almost the real-life Forrest Gump of baseball. Baker was on deck when Henry Aaron hit home run No. 715 in April 1974. He was in the dugout in 2001 when Barry Bonds set the single-season home-run record. Baker played with Orlando Cepeda (born 1937) and managed Jeremy Peña (born 1997). He struck up a friendship with then-62-year-old Satchel Paige as a rookie in Atlanta in 1968, soaking up knowledge from the Negro Leagues legend 33 years his senior. Telling the story of baseball's history is impossible without noting Baker's contributions as both a player and a manager. 

It's not a mystery as to why Baker has been a central figure in dugouts and clubhouses since the late-1960s. Few managers in history relate to players with such ease, from grizzled veterans to wide-eyed rookies. Baker brings a personal touch to a game now all-too-formulaic, and while his bullpen deployment can invite criticism, his management of personalities is beyond repute. 

Baker name-checks Michelle Obama and Snoop Dogg as personal friends. He's often a clubhouse and batting practice DJ, and he's considered one of the leading snack purveyors among managers on a given gameday. 

He manages with a palpable joy and has supreme trust in his players. As the Astros searched for a new manager after firing A.J. Hinch in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal in 2020, Baker was tapped by team owner Jim Crane to lead the team. Three years and plenty of jeers later, it's hard to argue Baker was anything but the perfect choice. As the ALCS trophy was handed to Crane on the field at Yankee Stadium in late October, the Astros' players let out a boisterous "Dusty!" chant. It was clear who they believed deserved to first hoist the hardware.

Saturday's victory marks the peak of Baker's career, a journey that spans 44 years, 16 playoff appearances and eight organizations. He became the oldest manager to ever manage a World Series game in 2022, and he is just 101 wins away from moving to No. 6 on the all-time managerial wins list. Yet even after a career-defining victory and amid an uncertain contract situation, Baker doesn't seem to be done just yet. 

A baseball lifer in every sense of the word, Baker has a simple explanation for his historic success dating back to 1968. 

"I stay hungry." 

More Astros News

PHOTOS: Houston's championship run in pictures

10 moments that shaped the Astros' World Series title

Jeremy Peña seems ecstatic about team's offseason moves

How Michael Brantley helped save the Astros’ season

Catch up on Texas sports, sign up for the Launch Pad newsletter here.