Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Forever Giants: Three Reasons to Celebrate Dusty Baker

I'm beginning to believe there's truth in the motto: Forever Giants.

I noticed the jersey retirement ceremonies of Barry Bonds and Will Clark were marketed and celebrated under the banner: Forever Giants. The orange and black welcome former players and successful teams—the '89 Giants, the 2002 Giants, 2010, 2012 and 2014 squads—back to the yard with these words. 

The Giants' 2022 season concluded on October 5 (some would say after being swept by the Dodgers in late August). However, for MLB it ended on Saturday night, November 5 when the Houston Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6 by a score of 4 to 1. Although the Bay Area is a long way from Houston, local sports talk radio celebrated loud and proud the manager who led this team to a World Series title: former Giants hitting coach and manager Dusty Baker. The joy and appreciation for the man from fellow Giants fans confirmed those words: Forever Giant are not just lip service. I'm proud to claim him as part of our past and this great game's present. 

Here are three reasons this Forever Giants is worth celebrating.

A Model of Perseverance 
At 73, Dusty Baker is the senior (read: nice way to say old) manager in MLB. He has managed two different teams in the World Series: the Giants and Astros and teams that nearly got there/should have gotten there: the Cubs, Reds and Nationals. Bottom line: it's never too late to pursue your dream.

Dusty said "But my mom and dad taught me perseverance. And you gotta persevere, you gotta believe in yourself." He did.

Baker was without a job from 2017 to 2020. He said, "I didn't know the time was gonna come when I couldn't got a job, but I knew if I got a job, the time was gonna come. You keep journeying, you keep hustling, and you keep staying with it."

Those words make a whole lot of sense now, but it was accepting this particular job was a huge risk. Following the Astros cheating scandal, the club that fired its manager and GM. He had to build something new. He had to help the team stay calm amidst the storms of ridicule and resentment, taunting and teasing, criticism and stay cool. When it comes to being calm, cool and collected, look no further than Dusty Baker. 

Paragon of Cool
What does it mean to be cool? Ever since I read Philosophy Now's The Human ConditionWhat Does It Mean To Be Cool? Thorsten Botz-Bornstein links Stoicism and Hip Hop. I've used the adjective sparingly. To be cool is to have a certain power, mystique and style. Like the word awesome, it ought to be used sparingly. Why? Because what is really cool is cool.

With a name like Johnnie B. Baker, Jr. being cool might be your birthright. The oldest of five, Dusty earned his nickname "from his mother because of his propensity for playing in a dirt spot in the backyard." For some reason, it's still cool.

Look at the paragon of cool: the toothpick, the brow-line glasses, his affect and posture, his laugh and even his managerial style. I'm not so sure about the black latex gloves, but the man is cool. No wonder so many former fans are drawn to him. 

But what makes Dusty super cool is that it's not about him. Cool is as cool does. Bo Jackson was cool. And like Bo, Dusty knows...

"I kept seeing those signs, ‘Do it for Dusty’ and the players were staying ‘Hey we’re gonna do this for you….' I was like 'Hey man, that's cool and everything, but let's do it for us, let's do it for the city of Houston and do it for hopefully all the stuff that we've been going through the last three years. Hopefully it's over.' You gotta let it ride. Because these guys are some good ballplayers. Great ballplayers."

The High Five
Although he was in on its inception, Dusty Baker did not invent the high-five. He gives credit to his former Dodger teammate, Glenn Burke. Baker said "Did I invent the high five? No! All I did was respond to Glenn."

He added "sometimes you don't know why you do the things you do, especially when you're extremely happy—you just respond to each other." That's part of how the high five was born....but there's more to it. The 30 for 30 short "The High Five" says it all. 

I told my students about this. Many paused and one had the courage to say, "wait, someone invented the high five? That wasn't always around?" I knew someone--just one student--was actually listening. His realization was on point.

I said, "I know, but you and I only know a world where high fives are a reality."

I then realized but the fist bump wasn't always around in the way it was now. I mentioned this and said, "I love a good "pound it." 

Someone added, "I guess people just shook hands in the past." I said "but there are all kinds of hand shakes too, aren't there?!"

Another student said "well, what gesture do you prefer, Ms Stricherz?" I said "In honor of Dusty, the high five!"

Dusty couldn't get any cooler.

In Conclusion
Schools, universities, sports teams and organizations have mottos. Some have great ones. For example in Jesuit education we claim to be "men and women for and with others." We aim to "find God in all things" and study, work and play "for the greater glory of God. AMDG." But what good is a motto if the words ring hollow? We must hold one another accountable to live up to what we proclaim. Our word is at stake. And for a group—in this case a professional sports team—why should it be any different? 

To be a Giant is to be Forever Giant. Baseball fans, that's just one more reason to stand behind the orange and black!

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