Dusty Swapped His Toothpick for a Ring
Updated: Nov 7, 2022
Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Dusty finally got his ring - well, as a manager anyway. Ol’ Toothpick got one as a player back in 1981. But as a manager? That didn’t happen until last night.
In front of a rabid Houston Astros crowd that smelled blood in the water and had championship trophies beckoning in their dreams, the Astros dominated their World Series counterparts, the Philadelphia Phillies, in a 4 - 1 victory. For the city of Houston, it was their second championship in six years. For Ol’ Dusty, it was a long, long time coming.
Dusty is a baseball lifer. He’s a baseball character in his own right. He’s a Hall of Famer in every sense of the term. He even played a role in inventing the “high five” ... if you’re inclined to believe his version of the events.
Before the World Series began, it felt like the whole world was united in popular resistance to the Astros. The Phillies were the underdog, the overlooked Wild Card team that caught fire. The Astros were the old-guard, the 106-regular-season-win juggernauts. Oh, and they cheated.
Not in 2022, mind you. By all accounts, this season was clean as a whistle. (Though if six players tested positive for PEDs tomorrow, could we really be surprised?) The Houston Astros franchise has some warts, but thankfully, none of them can be put on Dust-er.
Prior to his arrival in 2020, the Astros were in hot water over a scandal that revealed that the organization and the players had conspired in an elaborate sign-stealing campaign. It was discovered, thanks to former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers and an exposé from The Athletic, that the Astros had been using a camera in center field to record, analyze, and relay the catcher’s signals to their hitters. In effect, the Astros batters knew what pitch was coming, all thanks to some jamoke banging on a trash can (one bang = fastball, two bangs = off-speed, etc.).
The Astros won the World Series in 2017 utilizing these underhanded tactics. Needless to say, most of the baseball world has been united against them ever since.
That said, it’s hard not to feel good for Dusty Baker.
He might be coaching for the new Evil Empire, but he’s no Darth Vader. The Astros betrayed our trust, but not Dusty - he’s the same loveable lug he’s always been.
Growing up in Cincinnati hasn’t been the easiest in a sports-related-success sense. I was born in 1992. I was two-years late for the Reds wire-to-wire run in ‘90. I had to endure a decade of the bungling Bengals. Even Bob Huggins’s Cincinnati Bearcats teams had reached their apex before I could reasonably call myself a “fan”.
Dusty Baker was hired by the Cincinnati Reds in October of 2007, in a time when there seemed to be a change in the Cincinnati-sports landscape. The Bengals were achieving limited success under Marvin Lewis (and I say “limited success” with enthusiasm because I’ll take heartbreaking playoff appearances over a 4 - 12 season any day), and with Bob Castellini purchasing the Reds in 2005, progress was the order of the day.
The Reds hiring of Baker coincided with one of the most enjoyable stretches for Cincinnati sports in many years. The Bengals, finally, were emerging from the Lost Decade as a bona-fide NFL team with a Heisman-winning quarterback and the NFL’s most entertaining wide receiver. The Reds, likewise, featured their own budding superstar in 2010 National League MVP Joey Votto, and they would go on to win two division-titles under Dusty's leadership.
At the center of the Reds' success was Dusty - always cool, always calm, always crunching on his toothpick.
That’s why I can’t help but be happy for him; even though his World Series ring came with the Cheating Astros and even though he’s been gone from Cincinnati for almost ten years now. It took him 25 years - stints with the San Francisco Giants, the Chicago Cubs, the Reds, the Washington Nationals, and now Houston. He suffered a World Series defeat in 2002 with Barry Bonds and the Giants, and he weathered the imfamous Bartman-incident with the Cubs in 2003. His coaching career was defined by distress, but now, in a flash, that’s all wiped away.
Congratulations, Dusty. You earned this one - more than people will ever really know.