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After more than 50 years in baseball, iconic manager Dusty Baker is retiring

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

One of the most accomplished players and managers in Major League Baseball history is stepping back from the game. Astros manager Dusty Baker officially announced his retirement today, just days after Houston was eliminated from the playoffs in Game 7 of the American League Championship. As Jack Williams reports from Houston Public Media, Baker leaves a game he's been playing and managing for more than 50 years.

JACK WILLIAMS, BYLINE: On Monday night, after the Astros had been eliminated, Baker looked and sounded like a man who was ready to go home. Now he'll get that chance.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DUSTY BAKER: First, I'm going to go home and talk to my daughter that thinks that she's my mother and spend some time with my grandkids and let the Lord told me where to go and what to do.

WILLIAMS: It will be a big adjustment for someone who has been on a baseball field professionally in some capacity for most of the past half-century, starting as a 19-year-old player in 1968. He ended his playing career with almost 2,000 hits and a World Series ring. His managerial career started with the Giants in 1993. And he later led the Cubs, Reds and Nationals before he got a call from Astros owner Jim Crane, who needed a manager to navigate a reeling Astros team caught up in the fallout of a cheating scandal in 2020.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JIM CRANE: You came in and helped us when we needed some help. And you did a great job. And I think you were the only guy that could do that in the business. So I told you that the other day - did a fantastic job. The record speaks for itself.

WILLIAMS: That record included four American League Championship Series appearances and a World Series win last season. Baker ranked seventh all time with more than 2,000 managerial career wins. He's also the only manager to lead five different teams to the playoffs and is considered a sure bet to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Astros general manager Dana Brown joked about Baker's longevity. He's 74 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DANA BROWN: You know, as a child, I watched him play on TV, and just honored to be...

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: ...You know...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: How old?

BROWN: That was in the '70s, but - so it's just an honor to be around such a good baseball man.

WILLIAMS: Baker leaves the game with decades of accomplishments but says he doesn't feel like he's done all he can.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BAKER: I went to Hank Aaron's funeral. All these people were talking about how Hank had contributed and helped out their college education and how he had, you know, affected this life and that life. And I came back home and told my wife, I don't feel like I've done anything.

WILLIAMS: With that, Baker, dressed in a sharp blazer and tie, walked away from a game that's kept him going for 55 years. For NPR News, I'm Jack Williams in Houston.

(SOUNDBITE OF NANCY BEA HEFLEY'S "TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Jack Williams