WASHINGTON – At 73, Dusty Baker became the oldest manager ever to win the World Series when the Houston Astros took the title last year. On Monday at a White House celebration for the team, President Joe Biden said he could relate.
"People counted you out saying you were past your prime. Hell, I know something about that,” joked Biden, who in 2020 became the oldest president ever elected, at age 77. Biden, now 80, is running for reelection in 2024.
Baker has been around the game for decades. He won a World Series as a player with the Los Angeles Dodgers and had been to the Fall Classic twice before as a manager. He finally got his first title in his 25th season as a manager. The win came 20 years after a near-miss, when he came within five outs while guiding the San Francisco Giants.
“I remember rooting for him as a kid, and I was older than he was,” Biden quipped.
Baker, now 74, spent the past three seasons with the Astros after they hired him to help the team regain credibility after a sign-stealing scandal cost manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow their jobs, and made Houston the most reviled team in baseball.
Baker, like Biden, is working on a repeat and says he wants to be back in the White House next year after winning the title again.
The team presented Biden, the 46th president, with an honorary jersey with the number 46. The MLB trophy was on display during the ceremony in the East Room, where the team also posed for photos.
The Astros won last year's World Series over the National League’s Philadelphia Phillies -- whose fans include first lady Jill Biden. The president often jokes that he must root for the Phillies or else he’ll be sleeping alone. He joked on Monday that he wouldn't be able to set foot in Philadelphia again after hosting the Astros.
This season the Astros are not doing too badly, either. They hold an American League wild-card spot and are 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers in the AL West. The team begins a three-game series in Baltimore on Tuesday.
Among the players in attendance was Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña, who was the World Series MVP as a rookie, the first time a new player won the coveted award.
Baker praised his team during the ceremony.
“They always believed in themselves, prior to me even coming here -- that they had the ability to win,” he said. “And they show what perseverance and character can do."
Besides baseball, Biden spoke of the team's support for survivors of the Uvalde, Texas, massacre. Last May, a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde. Later that summer, the team chartered 10 buses and brought hundreds of people from Uvalde for a game against the Oakland Athletics.
“I think you athletes underestimate how much hope you give,” said Biden, turning to the team standing on risers behind him. Sports may seem to be only about winning, but that's not true of the best teams."
“At best it lifts people up and brings them together and helps them be there for each other.”
Long reported from Chicago.