Nationals manager Dusty Baker has been in professional baseball for a long time. In fact, he didn't realize he was in his 50th year until recently, when an old friend from California sent him a photo of their high school reunion.
Baker was 18 when he decided to pursue a career in baseball. His parents had been recently divorced, and he decided to turn pro to help the family financially. It was after graduating from Del Campo High School in Sacramento, Calif., when Baker, now 68, was taken by the Braves in the 26th round of the 1967 First-Year Player Draft.
"I was the oldest of five and felt a sense of responsibility to really help the family," Baker said on the Newsmakers podcast.
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Not only did Baker help his family, he's had a career to remember. From playing with Hank Aaron and Satchel Paige to managing Barry Bonds and Bryce Harper, Baker has a lot of great memories on the diamond.
Baker was in the on-deck circle in 1974 when Aaron broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record with No. 715. Baker was the manager of the Giants in 2001 when Bonds broke Mark McGwire's single-season home run record. Don't forget Baker was an above-average player. He was a two-time All-Star with the Dodgers and helped them win three pennants and one World Series.
Baker is also one of the best managers in baseball history. He is the winningest active manager with a career record of 1,863-1,636. Baker is the 12th manager in Major League history to win 90 or more games on 10 or more occasions, according to Elias Sports. The other 11 managers -- John McGraw (16), Joe McCarthy (15), Bobby Cox (15), Connie Mack (13), Joe Torre (12), Tony La Russa (12), Earl Weaver (11), Casey Stengel (11), Al Lopez (10), Walter Alston (10) and Sparky Anderson (10) -- are in the Hall of Fame.
"Dusty has a great energy about him. He has a feel for everybody," Nationals starter Max Scherzer said. "He knows how to push buttons. He knows how to motivate players. He is one of my favorite managers. At 2 in the afternoon, you can have a nice joke with him. When it's 7 and it's game time, he is right there competing with you. I love that about Dusty. That's why he is such a good fit."
Asked if he does much reflecting on his career yet, Baker said, "No, not yet. I remember talking to Sadaharu Oh, and he was a nine-time MVP [in Japan]. I asked him. 'Are you ever satisfied?' I'll never forget our conversation through an interpreter. Oh said, 'You don't look back until you retire and then maybe you say, 'I accomplish a few things.' He was nine times MVP and he was going for No. 10.
"I don't have time to rest on my laurels, because most of my career I received a lot more criticism than most people that had the success that I've had. Most times I hear what I don't do. That motivates me at the same time as it has … most of my life."
Baker is currently motivated to win his first World Series title as a manager as the Nationals face the Cubs in the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile. Baker believes his 50th year in baseball will be the charm.
Even if the Nationals win the World Series, Baker hopes to manage several more years. His contract expires after this season and he wants the Nationals to be his last stop in baseball before he becomes a full-time business man.
Washington is second only to San Francisco, which is Baker's home. Managing in the nation's capital is better than what he thought. Baker didn't have to worry about rebuilding the Nationals like he did with the Giants, Cubs and Reds. Heck, the Nationals already had Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon, as well as other established Major Leaguers before he arrived.
"We have some great guys on this team -- veterans, great talent," Baker said. "They were good before I got here. I expect to win [the World Series]. I think it's already written. All you have to do is don't mess it up. ... It will be step one in a two-step process. I always said if I win one, I want to win two. And I will win two. If anything, I think it would be great for the city.
"I really enjoy what I'm doing. I still have the same dilemma that I've always had. I'm trying to figure out why the highs and wins don't equal the lows of losing. When I figure that out, then it will be time to quit."