By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
One week after lamenting that there were no Black American players on either the Philadelphia Phillies or his Houston Astros in the World Series, Dusty Baker became only the third African American manager to lead a Major League Baseball team to a World Series title.
Cito Gaston of the Toronto Blue Jays, who won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993, and Dave Roberts, who led the Los Angeles Dodgers to the championship in 2020, are the only other Black managers to capture the Fall Classic.
Baker’s Astros dispatched the Philadelphia Phillies in six games, sending the city of Houston into a frenzy just five years after the team’s tainted World Series victory in 2017 under manager A.J. Hinch.
“I’m tired of hearing it,” Baker proclaimed after the Astros series clinching a 4-1 victory in Houston on November 5. “[Critics said] ‘He doesn’t do this; he doesn’t do that.’ All I heard about what I can’t do,” Baker stated. “But my mom and dad taught me perseverance. And you gotta persevere, you gotta believe in yourself.”
Born in 1949, Baker broke into the big leagues as a 19-year-old when he joined the Atlanta Braves in 1968. In a stellar career that spanned three decades, Baker was as feared a hitter as anyone. He earned two All-Star nods, won the Silver Slugger Award for best hitter at his position twice, and finished in the top 10 in the MVP race twice. Baker also won a Gold Glove and was part of the 1981 Dodgers team that defeated the New York Yankees in six games to win the World Series.
He managed the San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, and Washington Nationals. Each team improved under his leadership.
Before winning the World Series, Baker noticed that the 2022 Fall Classic stood out as the first since 1950 that didn’t have an African American on either team. “Nah, don’t tell me that,” Baker lamented.
“That’s terrible for the state of the game. Wow! Terrible. I’m ashamed of the game. Quote me. I am ashamed of the game,” reaffirmed Baker, an African American. While Black players made up about 18 percent of all MLB rosters when researchers from TIDES first began assessing the league’s demographic data in 1991, Black players represented only 7.2 percent of all MLB players at the start of the 2022 season.
Researchers at TIDES – The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports – reported that the percentage of Black players “has been a serious concern for many years.” TIDES reported that 38 percent of all players on Opening Day 2022 were players of color – approximately 28.5 percent Hispanic or Latino, 1.9 percent Asian, and less than 1 percent Hawaiian/Pacific Islander or Native American.
“Well, I don’t think that’s something that baseball should really be proud of,” Baker said. “It looks bad. It lets people know that it didn’t take a year, or even a decade, to get to this point.”
A baseball lifer, Baker has done all he could to make the sport look good. Now enjoying his first World Series victory as a manager, Baker, 73, said he’d not only like to win a second before he retires, but he’ll continue to work to ensure more diversity in future Fall Classic games.
“I’m just grateful, really, for the trials and tribulations you go through to get to this and just grateful for my mom and dad for being tough on me,” Baker said. “Also grateful for some of the enemies that helped motivate me to get to this point, you know what I mean? But, you know, with no malice or anything because that doesn’t do any good.”