When Dusty Baker was a young man, he prayed he wouldn’t get drafted by a team in the south. He wasn’t sure how he would handle being an African American in the deep south; this was, of course, the 1960s.
But he was drafted by a southern team; the Atlanta Braves. Baker would become close with Hank Aaron, who helped guide him through baseball and eventually life. Aaron promised Baker’s mother he would help take care of her son.
Now, the memory of Hank Aaron stays with Baker as the Braves and Astros play in the World Series.
“I think about him all the time,” said Baker. “Especially in a series like this. I feel his presence.”
Baker and Aaron were present in many aspects of each other’s lives. Baker was in the on-deck circle when Aaron hit his iconic 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record. Aaron was like a grandfather to Baker’s son, Darren. The two remained close until Aaron’s death on January 22. Posthumously, Aaron has his imprint all over this World Series as his Braves take on Baker, manager for the Astros.
“His footprints are all over this series,” said Baker.
Baker spoke with media throughout the week about everything the late Aaron taught him.
“About being a proud African American, but not wearing that on your sleeve because it’s already on your face. He taught me a lot of life lessons, big time.”
The Astros’ skipper was asked what Aaron would have said to him if he were still living.
“Going over the conversations we would have had, we probably wouldn’t have (talked) much about baseball.”
Now, Baker is in the midst of trying to win his first World Series as a manager against the team who drafted him.
“He had a tremendous impact, not only on the baseball field but on my life, and in my family, and in my business,” said Baker. “I’ll be forever grateful.”