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Spotlight on Sports Heroes Who Served: Baseball Star Dusty Baker

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Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

Marine Corps veteran Johnnie B. "Dusty" Baker Jr. is a baseball legend.

 

Born in 1949 in Riverside, California, Baker was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1967 and played for the team until 1975. 

From 1976 to 1983, he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then, in 1984, he was with the San Francisco Giants. From 1985 to 1986 he played for the Oakland Athletics.

After his playing career, he became coach of the San Francisco Giants from 1988 to 1992. 

Six men stand on a baseball field and talk during a game; two men are wearing team uniforms.

Later he was a manager of five teams: San Francisco Giants (1993-2002), Chicago Cubs (2003-2006), Cincinnati Reds (2008-2013), Washington Nationals (2016-2017), and the Houston Astros (2020 to present).

His career highlights include: two-time All-Star, 1981 and 1982; World Series champion, 1982; and National League Manager of the Year, 1993, 1997 and 2000. 

While baseball fans recognize Dusty Baker's achievements, some people don't know he served in the Marine Corps Reserve as a mechanic in motor transport from 1968 to 1974.

A man wearing a baseball uniform looks at a framed document being held by a man wearing a military uniform.

"Vietnam was going on big time," Baker told Pentagram newspaper writer Jim Dresbach in a 2017 interview. "My friends were getting drafted. I was in school in junior college, and the Atlanta Braves asked me to go into the Marines. I wasn't crazy about the idea. It turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened in my life – joining the Marines.

"It helped me a lot," Baker said of his years as a Marine. "I came home more disciplined. Like I said, it might not be for everybody, but it definitely helped me at that point and stage of my life."

Baker's Marine life started at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina and then Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

A man wearing a baseball uniform walks across a baseball field.

Asked how baseball and the military are similar, Baker noted that both have a change of command and an intense brotherly camaraderie.

"Out here on the baseball diamond, it's like teammates are your brothers," Baker said. "I learned more about teamwork in the Marines, more than anything else. If we get in a fight or whatever there is, you better not touch my teammate."

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