HOUSTON — Just call it Mr. 2,000.
Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker won his 2,000th game on Tuesday night, becoming the 12th skipper in major league history to reach the milestone and the first black man to do so.
The landmark win came in Houston’s 4-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners and comes more than 29 years after earning its first victory on April 6, 1993, in San Francisco’s 2-1 victory over St. Louis.
“I’m probably one of the luckiest men to ever walk this earth,” Baker said with a smile minutes after the final.
Baker, 72, said being the first black manager to reach 2,000 wins makes the feat even more meaningful.
“It means more,” he said. “It means more for the culture. It means more to society. It means extra for my race, and it means extra hopefully for others to have an opportunity (so) I’m not the last.
It is the latest milestone in a playing and coaching career that spans more than 50 years. Baker reached the World Series twice as a manager, last season with the Astros and in 2002 with the Giants. As a player, he went three times with the Dodgers, winning it all as a left fielder in 1981.
So where is this moment?
“Right now it’s at the top,” he said. “But I’m not going to stop now.”
Ten of the other 11 managers who have racked up at least 2,000 wins are in the Hall of Fame. Bruce Bochy (2003), who is not yet eligible, is the only exception.
“That should lead straight to the Hall of Fame,” Astros wide receiver Martín Maldonado said.
Baker’s players presented him with a bottle of vintage Dom Pérignon champagne which they signed with a gold marker to commemorate the achievement. The team toasted Baker with much more reasonably priced champagne in the clubhouse after the game.
His wife, Melissa, and a group of about 10 friends were at the ballpark. Melissa Baker smiled as she filmed her hubby after the game from the stands as the big screen showed a picture of him with the words “2K Wins” in big white letters.
Baker’s career record is 2,000 to 1,745 and he is the only manager in major league history to take five different teams to the playoffs.
He has 840 wins in 10 years with the Giants, 322 in four seasons with the Cubs, 509 in six years with the Reds, 192 in two seasons with the Nationals and he has 137 in his tenure with the Astros.
“I’m just doing my job,” Baker said. “I’m not that proud of myself yet.”
He reached 500 wins with the Giants in a 6-5 victory over the Phillies on June 1, 1999. His 1,000th victory came on August 30, 2004, when he led the Cubs to a 5-2 victory on Montreal. The No. 1,500 victory came on May 9, 2012, with the Reds in a 2-1 triumph over Milwaukee.
“It’s an honor to play for someone who loves the game and loves his team and knows the game of baseball so well and has had such a storied career,” Houston third baseman Alex said. Bregman. “Being able to learn from him, play for him and be able to adapt to him every day is very special and no one here takes that for granted.”
There was a time when Baker wondered if he would even have a chance to pursue this step. After being fired by the Nationals after a 97-win season in 2017, Baker didn’t get another job until 2020 after Houston’s sign-stealing scandal cost manager AJ Hinch his job.
“If it hadn’t been for the scandal, I wouldn’t be in this position,” Baker said. “My phone didn’t ring all the time. Three times I’ve lost jobs and twice I’ve won, and I haven’t had a call for two years…so yeah, it’s just a matter of perseverance. And I’m here and I’m… where I’m supposed to be.
Right-hander Lance McCullers praised Baker as a manager and a man and noted the difficult situation he got into when he was hired in Houston.
“He got us through a tough time as a clubhouse,” McCullers said. “There in 2020 we were navigating a lot of choppy water (and) everything post-COVID. He earned our respect. It’s a big step for him tonight. Probably one of the most current exclusives.
Baker, who needs 41 wins to move up to No. 9 on the career list, was asked about making the top-10.
“I will make it as long as I live,” he said. ” It’s my thing. As long as I live and as long as you do your job – and my job is to win – then I will.
Baker said the first thing he thought of after the final was being there when good friend Bochy reached 2,000 wins. And then a second thought immediately popped into his head.
“That’s the first thing I thought of,” he said. “And the next thing I thought was I needed three more to (catch) Bruce.”
New York Post