WASHINGTON -- There was a time Nationals manager Dusty Baker called himself a Dodger. From 1976-83, Baker was a two-time National League All-Star, won an NL Gold Glove Award and helped Los Angeles win a World Series championship in 1981.On Wednesday, as his team prepared for Friday's Game 1 (5:30
WASHINGTON -- There was a time Nationals manager Dusty Baker called himself a Dodger. From 1976-83, Baker was a two-time National League All-Star, won an NL Gold Glove Award and helped Los Angeles win a World Series championship in 1981.
On Wednesday, as his team prepared for Friday's Game 1 (5:30 p.m. ET on FS1) of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers, Baker reminisced about the time he was traded to L.A. on Nov. 17, 1975. He had been playing for the Braves and wanted out because they were not postseason contenders and had traded Baker's mentor, Hank Aaron, to the Brewers the previous season. Baker then asked then-general manager Eddie Robinson to trade him to a West Coast team because he no longer wanted to live in the South.
Robinson responded by asking Baker, "Have you ever been to Cleveland?" In the 1970s, the Indians were far from a winning organization and players weren't clamoring to move there.
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So after his conversation with Robinson, Baker drove from Atlanta back to Sacramento, his hometown. While driving, he was hoping that he would become a member of the Dodgers.
"I always wanted to be a Dodger," Baker said. "I heard the Dodgers had the best athletes, pretty uniforms, good bodies, and I was like, 'You are talking about me.' That's what I thought."
Baker was watching the news one night and saw four players on TV -- Jim Wynn, Jerry Royster, Lee Lacy and Tom Paciorek. And then Baker saw a photo himself and Ed Goodson. It turned out Baker and Goodson were traded for those four players.
Then Baker called his father, Johnnie Sr., who had been trying to reach his son for two days to inform him of the trade to the Dodgers.
"Eddie Robinson did me a favor. He traded me to where I wanted to go," Baker said.
After a rough first season with the Dodgers, Baker stopped reading the newspapers. He didn't want fans to influence his mindset.
After that, however, Baker's self-esteem was sky high, putting together seven solid seasons with the Dodgers.
Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.