When you hear the name Dusty Baker, the first image that likely comes to mind -- before his successful playing career, before his numerous managerial accolades, even before J.T. Snow saved his son at home plate in the World Series -- is that famous toothpick dangling from his mouth.
For as long as I remember, I can see Dusty propped up on the top step of the dugout, twirling those mini-splinters back and forth between his teeth. He looked so cool. So collected. It's no wonder that, when the Reds decided to honor their skipper with his very own bobblehead back in 2011, that bobblehead came complete with its very own toothpick holder.
And now that the 70-year-old skipper is back in baseball as manager of the Astros, I wanted to find out more about them -- specifically, how many toothpicks has Dusty gone through during his MLB career? So, with the help of Astros MLB.com beat reporter Brian McTaggart, I went straight to the source: Baker himself.
First, we needed to find out how how many he might go through in one game.
"I go through a couple [he keeps a box of them in his pocket], but they’re sturdy and they don’t break," Baker told MLB.com. "Yeah, I tend to chew on them more late in the game. People ask, ‘How you can twirl that toothpick in your mouth? And I have to tell them they’re only pointed on one end.”
All very good to know. So, that's two per game. Multiply that by 162 and that's 324 per season.
But how about during his entire career? How long have the toothpicks been part of his routine?
“I started doing it when I was managing the Giants," Baker said. "It was hard for me to floss because my teeth were close together and I had thick fingers, so I started using toothpicks and keeping them in my mouth during games. I never played with a toothpick in my mouth, though.”
So, he only started chewing as a manager (probably the safest position on a baseball diamond to be chewing toothpicks). Baker's first year of managing was 1993; that's 22 years chewing toothpicks.
324 toothpicks over 22 seasons equals ... 7,128.
But wait, there's also postseason games -- when managerial decision-making gets stressful and toothpick-chewing might become even more voracious. Dusty has managed in 55 of those. Taking the pressure into account, we'll bump that toothpick per game average to 4. That's 220 toothpicks in October -- good for a career total of 7,348.
I had my answer: Dusty Baker had chewed on 7,348 toothpicks.
Is that a lot? That seemed like a lot.
But to really put 7,348 toothpicks into perspective (and because I had nothing better to do with all of this information), what about a visual breakdown? What could we build with 7,348 toothpicks? What everyday objects could we measure with them?
For that, I also needed to know each toothpick's size. Which meant I needed to know the brand.
“I use tea tree oil mint toothpicks," Baker said. "The brand is Tea Tree Therapy, I get them at Whole Foods. They’re not cheap.” (Dusty said he asked the company about an endorsement deal, but they declined, saying, "We don't need help selling toothpicks.")
I googled Tea Tree Therapy toothpicks to find their size and discovered there's a reason why they're so expensive: These aren't just any old toothpicks, they're some of the finest in the world. Tea Tree Therapy sticks are forged with oil from tea trees in the Bungawalbin Basin of New South Wales, Australia. The oils are said to have curative and restorative powers.
(A rep for Tea Tree Therapy said people generally chew on their toothpicks for 15-20 minutes -- but, so it seems, not Dusty. Dusty prefers to savor every last bit of those healthful juices.)
Most importantly, the Tea Tree Therapy toothpicks are listed at 3.3 inches long. Multiply that by Dusty's 7,348 and that's 24,248 inches. A robust 2,021 feet. A solid 0.4 miles of toothpick road.
So here, finally -- if you care at all -- is a handy infographic to visually capture Dusty Baker's toothpick habit.