“I’m so happy that it took this long, because I would have been gone a long time ago, then you affect the players‘ lives and their families and that’s what it’s all about,” Baker said on FS1 after the game.
To say he has affected lives would be an understatement. There are so many extraordinary facets to the baseball life of Baker, who made his MLB debut as a 19-year-old in 1968, and played until he was 37 (1986).
Baker was the youngest manager in the sport when he was hired in December 1992 to helm the Giants in ‘93. He was 43, and his only managerial experience was in the inaugural year of the Arizona Fall League in 1992. He’d been a Giants coach for five years prior to ‘93, following a stint as an investment broker in 1987, which came after he retired from playing following the ‘86 season.
“I didn’t think it would happen this soon, although I had a plan that I would be a manager somewhere in five years,” Baker said when introduced at a news conference in ‘92. “I’m excited. I’m psyched.”
Thirty years later, he sounded just like that youngster in 1992, saying, “Not anymore, now they’ll quit talking about it!” of finally winning it all and no longer having to hear about the narratives.
Let’s talk about it just one more time, to properly appreciate and contextualize Baker’s perseverance. Here are nine stats and facts about Baker’s first title as manager.
• Winning a title isn’t entirely new for Baker, it’s just been a while. In 1981, Baker and the Dodgers won the franchise’s first title since 1965. He’d been with the club for two prior postseason runs, when the Dodgers lost to the Yankees in the 1977 and ‘78 Fall Classics.
With this ‘22 title, Baker went 40 years in between World Series wins. That’s the most years between any two consecutive World Series won as a player (at least one postseason game played) or manager, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The prior longest such stretch was 29 years, by Bob Lemon between a 1948 title with Cleveland as a player and a ‘78 one with the Yankees as a manager. That’s right — we can quantify Baker’s perseverance, and it makes it even more admirable.
• Baker now has two titles spanning 41 years from 1981 to 2022. No individual in baseball history had ever had his title-winning ways reach across that many trips around the sun. The prior longest stretch between first and last World Series win, regardless of how many were won in the middle, belonged to Casey Stengel, per Elias. He won in 1922 as a player, then in 1949-53, ‘56 and ‘58, not to mention the fact that the Giants won in 1921, too, though he did not play in the playoffs.
• Baker is the seventh individual to win the World Series as both a player and a manager in the divisional era (since 1969). He joins Alex Cora, Joe Girardi, Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella, Dave Roberts and Mike Scioscia.
Won World Series as player AND manager, divisional era (since 1969):
Dusty Baker: 1981 as player with LAD, 2022 as manager with HOU
Alex Cora: 2007 as player with BOS, ‘18 as manager with BOS
Joe Girardi: ‘96, ‘98-’99 as player with NYY; 2009 as manager with NYY
Davey Johnson: 1966, ‘70 as player with BAL, 1986 as manager with NYM
Lou Piniella: 1977-78 as player with NYY, 1990 as manager with CIN
Dave Roberts: 2004 as player with BOS, 2020 as manager with LAD
Mike Scioscia: 1981, ‘88 as player with LAD, 2002 as manager with ANA
• Let’s go back to that experience as a player. Though the Dodgers didn’t win it all in ‘77, Baker did have a stellar NLCS, hitting .357 with a 1.295 OPS and two homers in four games against the Phillies. The 28-year-old won NLCS MVP honors. With the Astros’ ‘22 title, he is now the only individual to win both a postseason MVP award and a World Series as manager in his career, according to Elias. What a baseball life.
• At 73 years old, Baker was already the oldest manager to reach the Fall Classic. Of course, that makes him the oldest to win one, too. But wait, there’s more. He isn’t just the oldest World Series-winning manager, he’s the oldest manager or head coach in MLB, NBA, NFL or NHL history to win a championship, per STATS.
• Just how long has Baker been around? When he made his managerial debut on April 6, 1993 with the Giants, the opposing team’s leadoff hitter was Geronimo Peña, the father of Jeremy Peña, who won ALCS and World Series MVP for the Astros this postseason. That outstanding connection was noted by NBC Sports Chicago’s Chris Kamka.
• We’ve talked in many ways about how this was a long time coming. Baker won the World Series in his 97th postseason game managed, which is the most at the time of first World Series-clinching win, per Elias. The prior mark had belonged to Roberts, who won the 2020 World Series in his 65th postseason game at the helm. Baker’s 97 postseason games managed are fourth all-time, behind only Joe Torre (142), Bobby Cox (136) and Tony La Russa (132).
• It’s not just about the postseason wait. It’s the regular-season time spent, too. Baker has managed 3,884 regular-season games, 10th-most all-time, which is also the most at the time of a manager’s first title. That distinction was previously held by Bruce Bochy, who had managed 2,574 regular-season games as of the 2010 postseason, when the Giants won it all.
• It’s impossible to quantify how many baseball lives have been affected by Baker and his staying power in the game. But we can say this, thanks to Elias: 308 players played at least one game with him and 558 have played at least one game with him as their manager. That’s a lot of recipients for Baker’s wisdom.