HOUSTON — With a grin that stretched seemingly from Washington to San Francisco, with pit stops successful Cincinnati, Chicago and close present astatine Minute Maid Park, Dusty Baker dropped a clump of names successful the astir sincere, heartfelt mode imaginable precocious Friday night, arsenic is his wont.
“I said a supplication to my dada and to Hank Aaron, and Al Kaline and Joe Morgan and Bob Watson and each my partners that are successful heaven,” the Astros manager said, moments after his squad blanked the Red Sox, 5-0, successful American League Championship Series Game 6 to beforehand to the World Series.
What a fantastic tribute from Baker to his dada Johnnie, to 3 precocious deceased Hall of Famers and to … Bob Watson?
“I was conscionable arsenic amazed arsenic you were, to beryllium honest,” Keith Watson, the lad of the precocious Yankees wide manager and subordinate (among myriad different shot accomplishments), told The Post connected Saturday.
Surprised, yet not surprised, due to the fact that that’s Dusty, the 72-year-old shot Yoda, who tin instrumentality a mounting arsenic pedestrian arsenic a sparsely attended quality league and marque it sublime. He tin scoff astatine his sports’ on-field improvement portion organically blazing the way for the progressively valued managerial trait of connectivity with his players.
He tin instrumentality implicit the astir loathed North American sports franchise successful his beingness and compel galore folks, if acold from each of them, to basal for Houston to triumph it each again … for Dusty, trying to get his archetypal ringing successful his 24th play of doing this.
“I don’t deliberation radical were giving him the thought that he’s going to pb them backmost to the World Series aft the full scandal,” said Watson, evidently referring to the sign-stealing ungraded that tarnished the 2017 champion Astros. “For [Baker] to flooded that and proceed to beryllium a antheral of character, it speaks volumes to his committedness to winning. It’s an illustration for different radical to follow, for sure.”
Bob Watson and Baker ne'er played together; hence the startled absorption erstwhile Baker paid tribute to Watson, who raised his household successful Houston and died present successful May 2020. They were contemporaries, though. Watson was calved successful 1946 and Baker successful 1949, and Keith Watson said that his begetter and Baker got to cognize each different arsenic amateur players, Bob Watson increasing up successful Southern California and Baker successful Northern California.
“There was ever that camaraderie arsenic players,” said Keith Watson, who recalled the days erstwhile Bob Watson’s Astros and Baker’s Dodgers were fierce National League West rivals.
Watson became the archetypal Black wide manager erstwhile helium took implicit the Astros successful 1994 — helium would beryllium a large recipient of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, by the mode — and connected Friday, Baker became the archetypal Black manager to triumph pennants successful some leagues.
“When I got to antithetic jobs, I heard mostly criticism,” said Baker, who took the Giants to the 2002 Fall Classic, astatine which they mislaid to the Angels successful 7 games, and besides guided the Cubs, Reds and Nationals to the postseason. “ ‘You didn’t bash this,’ oregon ‘You’re not bully astatine that.’ ‘You don’t cognize however to usage your bullpen’, oregon ‘You don’t similar young players.’ I heard a full clump of stuff. Most of it not complimentary, you cognize what I mean?
“As an African-American, astir of the clip they don’t truly accidental that you are of a definite intelligence. That’s not thing that we usually get, and truthful I’ve been proceeding a batch of this worldly astir of my life.”
He mightiness not person ever received this 5th managing accidental if not for the sign-stealing revelations, which compelled Astros proprietor Jim Crane to occurrence his manager A.J. Hinch. Earlier successful that 2019-2020 offseason, Baker interviewed for the Phillies’ opening that went to erstwhile Yankees skipper Joe Girardi.
“My lad [Darren] told maine successful his infinite wisdom, helium goes, ‘Dad, possibly that occupation wasn’t yours, and this is simply a amended job,’ ” Baker said. “I inherited a bully team, overmuch similar Sparky Anderson inherited the Big Red Machine.”
Except the 1970s Reds didn’t run nether a historical cloud.
“I had immoderate things implicit my caput too,” Baker said, referring to the aforementioned criticisms of his managing, “and truthful we had a batch successful common. When you tin place with the radical that you’re with nary substance what property they are, you know, it’s easier to get on and place the struggles that they’re going through.”
Keith Watson, a euphony and movie shaper who lives successful the Houston country and speaks successful the aforesaid booming baritone arsenic did his father, said that, aft watching the past retired Friday night, “I ran to Kroger. I came backmost and my telephone was blowing up” from Baker’s shout-out to his dad.
Said Watson of Dusty: “I don’t deliberation we’ll admit everything he’s accomplished until he’s done. And he’s not done. We get to spot the enactment successful progress.”
Baker arguably makes these Astros, this World Series, a must-see, which is possibly his top feat to date.