HOUSTON — For all of Darren Baker’s life, his father had chased a championship. That was Dusty Baker’s job, from San Francisco to Chicago to Cincinnati to Washington to Houston, and he all the time did it quite well. He just never got the ending right.
The harshest got here in 2002 when Darren was a 3-year-old bat boy, bawling in his father’s arms within the dugout after Game 7 of the World Series in Anaheim, Calif. Now he’s a minor league infielder — a peer, of sorts, along with his famous father. They never discuss what’s been missing.
“It was unsaid,” Darren Baker said on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park. “Just me sort of being in the identical field, I understand it. You don’t do that for some other reason. I get it. The celebs sort of need to line up so that you can win.”
The celebs, on tonight, were big and shiny eventually: Jose Altuve hustling to beat out a double-play grounder within the sixth inning, Jeremy Peña following with a single, Yordan Alvarez launching a 450-foot home run to offer the Astros the lead in Game 6 of the World Series.
When it was over, after right fielder Kyle Tucker sealed a 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies by squeezing a pop fly in foul territory, Baker’s coaches swarmed him in a corner of the house dugout. The location of his crowning achievement — the primary title in 25 seasons as a serious league manager — got here just steps away from the scene of the Astros’ shame.
It was there, just down the steps and into the tunnel, where the Astros banged on trash cans in 2017 to alert hitters, in real time, to the style of pitch that was coming. Baker had nothing to do with it; he was managing elsewhere. However the cleanup — the shattered repute of the franchise, the stain on its only championship — fell to Baker.
“When he got here here in 2020, we had the entire cheating scandal and we had Covid,” starter Lance McCullers Jr. said. “He was a stabilizing force for us. I wish we could have done it just a little bit sooner for him, but he truly deserved this.”
Baker, 73, isn’t just the oldest manager to win a World Series. He’s older than every head coach who has ever won a Super Bowl, an N.B.A. championship or a Stanley Cup. He has 2,093 victories within the regular season, ninth on the profession list. Everyone with more wins than Baker has not less than one championship.
“I’m glad now that he’s going to get his due,” said the Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, an adviser to Astros owner Jim Crane. “He’s going to get some pats on the back and cross that bridge to get elected to the Hall of Fame.”
Baker, who donated his World Series jersey, wristbands and even toothpicks to the Hall, would really like to maintain managing — “If I win one, I would as well win two,” he said — and Crane said after Game 6 that he would talk with Baker early this week a couple of return. Baker has the players’ endorsement.
“Dusty Baker’s a legend in the game,” said Peña, the rookie shortstop who hit .400 to win the World Series Most Beneficial Player Award. “Not simply because he’s been around. He’s had success at this game, he brings one of the best out of his players, he gives you the arrogance to simply exit and play hard and let the sport care for itself. You’ll be able to’t ask more of a manager.”
Baker has made a profession of inspiring loyalty. He spent 19 seasons as an outfielder, making two All-Star teams and helping the Los Angeles Dodgers win the 1981 World Series. As a manager, he has led all five of his teams to division titles, taking time to attach on a private level with players, coaches and staff.
Rob Butcher, the media relations director for the Reds, flew to Houston just so he might be within the stands to see Baker win a championship. He didn’t tell Baker he was coming, Butcher said, but he felt compelled to be there and cried after the ultimate out.
“He’s got loads of friends, but I actually don’t think he knows how many individuals wanted him to win this,” Butcher said. “It’s beautiful. He’s the person who you would like your father and grandfather to be, just a real, wonderful human being — along with being the best person you’ll ever meet.”
Baker once smoked a joint with Jimi Hendrix. He and a Dodgers teammate, Glenn Burke, invented the high-five. He wears wristbands along with his own likeness. He has a vineyard at his home in Sacramento. Before the World Series, he got a good-luck message from Snoop Dogg.
In his coaching staffs, Baker said, he values diversity, so each player has a coach with an analogous background: “I all the time had an African-American dude, I all the time had a pair Latin dudes, I all the time had a classy college dude, I all the time had some country white dudes that they will go consult with,” he said.
Baker’s Houston staff is built that way. But for years now, he has wondered if he really needs to maintain that design.
“I told anyone 10 years ago that the best way baseball was going — and I really like my Latin brothers — but we weren’t going to wish any African American coaches, really,” Baker said. “You’re going to wish either white coaches or Latin-American coaches.”
Baker was referring to the trendy demographics of baseball, which got here into sharp focus on this World Series, the primary since 1950 with out a single U.S.-born Black player on either energetic roster.
A study in May by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, on the University of Central Florida, found that while Black players represented 18 percent of M.L.B. rosters in 1991, the share had dwindled to 7.2 percent in the beginning of the 2022 season. Baker and the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts are the majors’ only Black managers.
“We’re not doing an actual good job, but hopefully we’ll keep talking about it,” Baker said. “I’ve been saying the identical thing for like 30, 40 years. I mean, how long can I say the identical thing, you realize what I mean, before the change goes to come back?”
Baker said he hoped to live long enough for baseball’s diversity efforts on the amateur side to provide more players within the majors. He has survived prostate cancer and a stroke, and said those scares had made him appreciate life and take higher care of himself.
“I’ve got two grandchildren now,” he said. “I’ve got a son, 23. It made me need to seize the day and take a look at to be productive each day. After which one thing I hear my dad all the time telling me: ‘Attempt to do the appropriate thing.’ And sometimes that’s tough, because sometimes you need to do the selfish thing. But the appropriate thing, whatever that’s in your mind, that’s what I attempt to do.”
Within the dugout on Saturday, similar to hundreds of other days, Baker did the appropriate things to win a game. This one, in fact, was unlike all the remaining. This one took him to the highest, and there was nothing left unsaid.
“He’s like, ‘Ask me how I like that,’” Darren Baker said. “And I said, ‘You’re a champion,’ and he just hugged me. It was awesome.”
Scott Miller and James Wagner contributed reporting.