HOUSTON — Dusty Baker was mobbed in the dugout and after a quarter-century as a Major League manager, is now a World Series champion.
The Houston Astros, cementing their legacy as a dynasty, silenced the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-1, Saturday night to capture the 2022 World Series championship in six games, winning the last three games for their second title in six seasons.
The sellout crowd of 42,958 erupted. Melissa Baker, Dusty’s wife, cried in joy. And Darren Baker, their son who wept 20 years ago when Baker’s San Francisco Giants lost in the 2002 World Series, celebrated.
Yordan Alvarez, who hit a monstrous, 450-foot, 3-run homer in the sixth inning – his first in 42 at-bats – was the hero.
Rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña was named MVP of the World Series after winning ALCS MVP.
But this championship perhaps meant more to one man than any player who showed up in the box score.
Johnnie B. Baker Jr.
The future Hall of Famer.
Baker, who had won more games (2,093) than any manger without a World Series title, has his ring.
“I tried not to dwell on it, but tried to have faith and perseverance and knowing that with the right team and the right personnel and right everything that this is going to happen,” Baker said. “Had this happened years ago, I might not even be here.”
The Hall of Fame already has artifacts of Baker in their museum: The 1977 National League Championship Series trophy by Baseball Magazine; an autographed baseball from the 2003 All-Star Game that he managed; a Dodgers road jersey from his playing days; and a cap from the 2020 season in which he led his record fifth team to a postseason berth.
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And, now, Hall of Fame officials said, they will be clamoring for anything and everything from Baker.
Baker becomes the oldest manager to ever win the World Series and only the third Black manager to achieve the feat.
“There was pressure from a lot of people are pulling for me,’’ Baker said, “especially people of color. And that part I do feel. I hear it every day. I see it when I’m walking down the street when I see a policeman, a bellman, or anybody of color, but especially of African-American color.
“I feel that I’ve been chosen for this.”
The irony of Baker’s World Series championship is that it was against the same team who considered him for their vacancy in October 2019. They interviewed Baker, Buck Showalter and Joe Girardi. They hired Girardi and fired him this June.
“Dusty Baker’s a legend in the sport …” Peña said. You can’t ask more of a manager. He brings out the best of you. And he took me in since day one and for this to be his first World Series championship it’s special to be a part of it.”
Rob Thomson became the interim manager after Girardi was fired and led the Phillies to their first postseason appearance since 2011, but it was Thomson who will be the manager second-guessed all winter.
Phillies starter Zack Wheeler, who had been given two extra days of rest because of arm fatigue, was mowing down the Astros the first five innings. He gave up just two singles when he opened the sixth inning by hitting Martin Maldonado with a pitch. The Phillies challenged the call with Maldonado not trying to get out of the way, but the call was confirmed. He induced a groundout by Jose Altuve, who went the entire postseason without a home run or RBI. Pena, red-hot, got his second hit of the game with a single to center.
Thomson pulled Wheeler and went with left-handed reliever Jose Alvarado.
It took four pitches for Alvarez to make the decision look bad.
He sent Jesus Alvarado’s 99-mph fastball 450 feet over the center-field batter’s eye. The Astros went up, 3-1, and turned Minute Maid Park into a party.
The Phillies had gone ahead in the top of the sixth with Kyle Schwarber’s led off for a 395-foot homer.
It was a stunning shot considering that Valdez had snuffed the life out of them all game. He retired 10 batters in a row until the homer, including five consecutive strikeouts, only one shy of Sandy Koufax’s World Series record in 1963. Valdez gave up just two hits, struck out nine batters, and allowed only two batters to even hit a fly ball to the outfield in his six-inning performance.
Baker turned the game over to his bullpen, and it was over.
The Astros, for the second time since 2017, are World Series champions to go along with their four American League pennants and six consecutive trips to the ALCS.
“The boos and the jeers that we got all over the country, it bothered these guys, but it also motivated them at the same time,” Baker said.
Baker, who began his day by grabbing coffee in Rice village, stopped off at the shoe store, dropped by the cleaners, and then listened to Big Mama Thornton, “You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog,’’ ended his evening with his greatest moment as manager.
“How about them Astros,” Baker said after the game.
Now he’ll forever be known as a World Series champion manager.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dusty Baker gets a World Series ring: Astros manager wins in 25th year
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