In Los Angeles Dodgers history, there are five players who have at least 4,500 plate appearances with a 117 OPS+. Four began their major league careers in a Dodger uniform and played most if not all of their careers as a Dodger. Those players are Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp.
The other player is an outfielder who started his career and played 625 games for the Atlanta Braves. He was then traded to the Los Angeles, where he had his greatest success. That player is Dusty Baker.
Prior to the 2016 National League Division Series between Los Angeles and Washington, Nationals manager Dusty Baker recounted how at the end of the 1975 season, he asked Braves General Manager Eddie Robinson to trade him to a California team. He then got into his 914 Porsche and began his drive back to Sacramento.
A few days later, he was in New Mexico and he saw on television that he had been traded to the Dodgers. He called his father and was told that they were trying to find him for two days to tell him about the deal.
Baker would have his poorest season as a Dodger in 1976, hitting .242/.298/.307 and had only four home runs in 421 plate appearances.
However, that season would soon be forgotten as Baker would hit a career-best .876 OPS in 604 plate appearances in 1977. At some point in September, the Dodgers were looking to do something for the first time in major league history.
No team had ever had four players with 30 or more home runs in a season but the Dodgers were positioned to achieve that feat.
At the start of September, Steve Garvey led the Dodgers with 28 home runs, Reggie Smith had hit 25 and Ron Cey had 24 homers. Baker trailed his teammates with 20 home runs.
Garvey was the first to hit 30 home runs when he hit it on September 14th. Cey and Smith both hit their 30th home run on September 18th, in the Dodgers 150th game. Baker, who was having a big month, hit his 28th in the same game. With 12 games to go, it seemed like the record was already in hand.
It took a week for Baker to hit his 29th home run, at Houston on September 25th. By then, the Dodgers had clinched the division and had not too much else to play for besides Baker joining his teammates in the 30-home-run club.
The Dodgers returned to Dodger Stadium to finish the season and Baker played five games without putting one over the fence. Game 162 would be his last chance and the Astros had their best, J.R. Richard, on the mound. Richard was having a good season and the Dodgers never had much success against him.
Richard was particularly tough on Baker and going to the bottom of sixth inning, Baker was 7-for-42, all singles, against Richard.
Baker recalls a career highlight he had in 1977
Baker would be a two-time All-Star for the Dodgers and a fan favorite for his part on those great Dodger teams in late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
As good a player as Baker was during his playing career, he would find great success as a manager. His 1,863 team wins under his watch ranks him 15th overall. If and when the 2020 season begins, Baker will seek the elusive World Series title that would almost ensure him a Hall-of-Fame induction as a manager.