Perhaps best remembered today as one of the winningest managers in big league history, Dusty Baker also enjoyed a fine 19-year playing career.
Drafted out of high school by the Braves in 1967, Baker made his big league debut the following year. In his first season as a regular in 1972, Dusty hit .321 with a .383 on-base percentage and a .504 slugging mark. For his efforts, he received support in MVP balloting.
Baker enjoyed 8 seasons with Atlanta before being sent to the Dodgers in a six-player deal in November of 1975. In his eight seasons seasons wearing Dodger blue, Baker flourished. The fan-favorite helped his club reach the postseason four times.
In 1977 he was part of baseball’s first 30-homer hitting quartet with Ron Cey, Reggie Smith, and Steve Garvey. His Dodger team won 98 games to earn a berth in the National League Championship Series.
Baker was magnificent in his first postseason series. In LA’s four-game NLCS victory over the Phillies, he recorded five hits, including a double and two home runs to account for 12 total bases. His 8 runs batted in and 1.295 OPS helped earn him the NLCS MVP. The Dodgers fell short of baseball’s ultimate prize in a 6-game World Series loss to the Yankees.
The Dodgers returned to the Fall Classic in ’78 but dropped to New York, again in six.
Two years later Baker had his finest year in Los Angeles. He slammed 29 homers and drove in 97 runs to go along with a .503 slugging percentage and a career-best 291 total bases.
A Silver Slugger recipient in both ’80 and ’81, Baker finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting each year.
Dusty earned the first of two consecutive All Star berths in 1981 when he hit .320 with a 132 OPS+. His performance helped the Dodgers reach the World Series against the Yankees, their foes from ’77 and ’78.
This time it was the Dodgers who prevailed in six, the final triumph coming in a 9-2 thrashing of New York at Yankee Stadium.
The 1982 season was another fine campaign for the outfielder. He hit an even .300 and reached 130 in OPS+ for the 6th and final time.
Baker signed with the Giants as a free agent in 1984 and played three more seasons, two in San Francisco and one in Oakland in 1986. He finished his 19-year playing career with 1,981 hits, 242 homers, and 1,013 RBI.
Shown here is a Topps baseball card of Dusty Baker from the 1981 World Series championship season. A National League choice for the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in ’81, Baker added his signature across it.