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Easy Rider After a rebellious youth that put him at odds with his father and his country, Giants manager Dusty Baker is cruising through middle age

Aug. 23, 1999
Aug. 23, 1999

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Aug. 23, 1999

Easy Rider After a rebellious youth that put him at odds with his father and his country, Giants manager Dusty Baker is cruising through middle age

It is liberty's torch, a lighthouse beacon, a radiant sign of
safe harbor in an otherwise hostile world. The giant rotating
cup atop the Slush Puppy dispenser in the visitors' clubhouse at
Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh glows from within, bathing
ballplayers in its fluorescent nimbus, advertising a Day-Glo
beverage in grape, cherry, raspberry, orange and lemon-lime
flavors to members of the San Francisco Giants' traveling party,
who range in age from 22 to 63. Embossed with a cartoon polar
bear, its motor emitting a steady hum, the cup turns in
perpetual motion, burns like an eternal flame, calls grown men
to its confectionary bosom and says, You've arrived. You are
now, and for as long as you remain in the big leagues, a kid in
a candy store.

This is an article from the Aug. 23, 1999 issue Original Layout

"My whole career--my life, really--has been a dream," says
Johnnie B. (Dusty) Baker Jr., who has spent 31 of his 50 years
in Major League Baseball. "For 36 years my dad worked two jobs.
In the day he was a civilian working for the military. On his
second job he would cut lawns, tack roofs, tack seats at the
theater. He sold TVs at Sears. You name it, my dad did it to
make extra cash. For years he'd come home between jobs, get a
20-minute nap and go back to work. And the thing is, all those
years, he never missed one of my games." On that word, games,
Baker's voice catches, and this may be why: In 1967, when he
became a professional baseball player, he severed contact with
his father.

It was John Sr.'s dream that Dusty attend college. But the son
instead signed a contract, on the hood of a car in the Dodger
Stadium parking lot, to play for the Atlanta Braves. John Sr.
took the club to court, and his son set out, with an outsized
obstinacy, to spite his old man with baseball success. "I had to
make it," he would say years later. So, in 2,039 games over
nearly 16 full major league seasons with the Braves, Dodgers,
Giants and Oakland A's, Baker, absurdly, never went on the
disabled list.

Pedro Guerrero flourished in the Dodgers' farm system, but
Baker, whose teammates came to call him Dr. Scald for his
scorching line drives, would not relinquish leftfield. He
resolved to do everything well, hitting 30 home runs in one
season, finishing third in the batting race in two others,
earning a Gold Glove, making two All-Star teams, playing in
three World Series. To Dodgers prospects he was maddening, like
a man monopolizing a public pay phone. Triple A outfielder Ron
Roenicke finally asked him one day, "When are you going to stop
playing, so I can?"

Roenicke now manages the Fresno Grizzlies, the Triple A
affiliate of the Giants, whose manager is--cruelly--Dusty Baker.
In six seasons, with a middling payroll, Baker has twice been
named National League Manager of the Year. His largely anonymous
club was, at week's end, in second place in the high-rent
National League West. So Roenicke might want to buy property in
Fresno, for Baker manages exactly as he played, right down to
the wristbands he wears on the bench. Indeed, Baker won't
countenance being called Skip, the honorific by which most
managers are addressed, as if they were sea captains. "I'm too
old for a nickname," he explains. "Already got one. Plus, I
don't want my job to dictate my name and my personality and my
opinion of myself."

So he goes by Bake or Dusty. The only people who call him
Johnnie are grade school classmates from Riverside, Calif.,
where his teachers refused to acknowledge nicknames. His middle
initial stands for nothing. Says Baker: "It's B. Just B. My dad
was raised in the South. Southern people would go by J.B. or
J.C., and we were raised Southern-style." The father grew up
black and poor in Depression-era Lakeland, Fla., and with that
in mind, the son steps into the candyland clubhouse at Three
Rivers Stadium and says of his own existence, "Things could be a
lot worse."

On a table outside his office are arrayed York Peppermint
Patties, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Starburst and Bazooka
bubblegum. The man who can vividly recall his father's wrath, 42
years ago, after the son stole a Mr. Goodbar from Mr. Carlos's
bodega in Riverside, now has everything he could reasonably ask
for in life. That includes his 74-year-old father. Happy landing
on a chocolate bar.

To hear Baker tell it, his clubhouse is a cloakroom, and he is
just a high-priced coat-check girl. "Everyone comes here in a
jacket," Baker says. "We all got one: That is, you're Good for
the Club, you're a Cancer on the Club, you're a Whiner, you
Don't Like Pressure, you're a Clubhouse Lawyer, you Run the
Streets, you're Not Smart, you're Very Intelligent, you're a
Good Guy, you're a Racist, you're Lazy, you Work Hard, you're
Cool, you're Not." Baker tells newly arrived Giants with
disreputable jackets that they are welcome to shed them, though
some players, like uptight dinner guests, leave them on. "But I
let them know," he says, "that it's up to them."

His own jacket is made to measure. You won't find this on any
rack: Baker is black, his best friend is white, his wife is
Asian-American, he speaks fluent Spanish to his Latin players,
he's 50 years old but has a six-month-old son, and he has an
80-year-old buddy who happens to be blues legend John Lee Hooker,
in whose club--the Boom Boom Room, on Fillmore Street in San
Francisco--the two men talk baseball. ("John Lee likes the moves I
make," says Dusty.) As Baker's best friend, Dennis Kludt, puts
it, "Dusty's personality is inclusive. He includes people."

Baker would never say so, but his starmongering manager on the
Dodgers enjoyed exclusivity. "I think Dusty saw the way Tommy
Lasorda always had celebrities in the clubhouse," says one Giants
official, "and he didn't want that for himself." In fact Baker
initially declined to be interviewed for this story.

"I don't want to be a star manager," he said. "I played for a
star manager, O.K.?" Last July, when USA Today Baseball Weekly
called him "perhaps the best manager in baseball," Baker summoned
two veteran Giants into his office. He apologized and said he had
had nothing to do with the article. When Baker finally acquiesced
to interviews with SI, he said more than once, "The players are
the ones getting the job done. I hope that will be reflected in
the story."

"He's very concerned that the players know that they are
responsible for the team's success," says Giants third-base coach
Sonny Jackson, who played with Baker in Atlanta from 1970 to '74.
"We talk about that a lot: It's not 'Dusty's team,' it's our
team."

"He reminds you of a player," says Giants outfielder Ellis Burks.
At the same time he is resolutely the boss.

"Aren't you supposed to be stretching?" Baker asks Marvin Benard
as the Giants centerfielder stands and chats during a pre-game
warmup in Philadelphia.

"They said we could stretch on our own," says Benard.

"So what are you doing?" replies Baker. "Stretching your lips?"

Every time the Giants play in Atlanta, Baker takes Benard to his
favorite soul-food restaurant, where the manager and the
29-year-old Nicaraguan talk baseball with old men. Dusty is most
comfortable around the very old, the very young and animals, yet
he is fanatical about treating everyone with dignity. "He has
always drawn people to him," says his mother, Christine Baker.
"Even as a little kid." It is his gift.

His friend Kludt left home as an adolescent after his mother
died of cancer. He was a self-described "wandering soul" who was
embraced by the Bakers at age 15, when he moved into his
18-year-old sister's apartment. Kludt would watch his wife die
of cancer in 1982, and 14 years later he would lose his
18-year-old son, Jonathan, to leukemia.

"The only time I've been mad at God was when Jonathan died," says
Baker, who was the boy's godfather. "I could not understand how
so many bad things could happen to a good man."

"God has been good to me," demurs that man, whom Baker also
stopped speaking to after entering professional baseball. "He
has let me be a part of Dusty's life."

Johnnie B. Baker Jr. is the oldest of five children: three boys
and two girls. In the year of his birth, his father, an Air
Force sheet-metal technician, fell 20 feet from a C-47 airplane
he was maintaining at Norton Air Force Base near Riverside and
shattered his left knee, which was fused after five operations.
Big John is an enormous man, with hands the size of the
foam-rubber ones sold at ball games. He walks with a great limp
and drives with a handicapped plate. "Ka-thud, ka-thud,
ka-thud," says Dusty, describing the sound that instilled panic
in him as a child when he was up to no good. "I'd know that walk
anywhere: Man, that's my dad, and he's mad!"

John Sr. ran the household Southern-style, so there was a big
backyard in the Bakers' middle-class black-and-Hispanic
neighborhood in which he raised chickens and rabbits. Johnnie Jr.
played in the dirt under the apricot, pear and peach trees. So
his mother began calling him Dusty.

"My son was a tough cookie," John Sr. says. "You had to get up
early in the morning to stay on top of that one."

"He was inquisitive," says Christine. "He just liked life."

In the Baker house there was, of course, no swearing. Dusty's
parents tolerated no dangits or darnits or any other disguised
expression of a profane thought. There was no drinking, no
smoking, no dice. Dusty's sister Tonya once told their father
that the boy was hiding dice in his pillow, anticipating a major
craps score at school. "Busted!" sings Big John even today.
"Busted wide open." The father took the dice to the driveway and
smashed them to powder with a hammer. "I never thought I was too
strict," he says. "'Course, today I'd be put in jail. You can't
even chastise your children today."

"He never struck me with his hand," says Dusty. "He didn't spare
the belt and switch, but he always waited. He never chastised me
while he was angry."

Dusty dared not drink, but one time--one time--he bought beer
for an underage friend in high school. Big John found out from
his own friend, the liquor store owner, but he waited 15 years
before springing the information on Dusty. Fifteen years after
the fact, at age 33, Dusty felt a pang: Busted. Busted wide
open. "I should have known my dad was hipper than I thought," he
says. "He was listening to Miles Davis when I didn't even know
who that was."

His father remembers busting Dusty for changing an F to an A on
his report card. Dusty bristles at this. "It was a D to a C," he
says immediately, "and it was in Conduct, because I was always
cutting up." He pauses. A devilish grin breaks out, and he
laments, "I smudged the ink when I changed the grade. Man, I was
walking death row all week." The smile suddenly disappears. "It
was a D, not an F," repeats Baker. "I never got an F in my life."

His parents would not have accepted such a thing. When Dusty was
14, Norton Air Force Base closed, and the Bakers moved to the
Sacramento area, where John Sr. found work at McClellan Air
Force Base. The father had been driven through several black
neighborhoods when he dismissed his real-estate agent and drove
himself to the all-white suburb of Carmichael, where the best
schools were said to be. He saw a man pounding a FOR SALE sign
in front of the ranch-style four-bedroom at 4520 Marble Way.
"The guy said his wife really wanted to move to Vacaville,"
recalls Big John. "I guess she was on his case in the worst kind
of way, because he sold the house to me." Only later did the
Bakers learn that the sale had been the subject of a contentious
block meeting.

At 15, Dusty was one of only two black students at Del Campo
High. (His brother Robert was the other.) Dusty and Kludt met on
the football team, for which Dusty was the star halfback. "Boys
at that age love or hate each other, and we bonded through
sports," says Kludt. Because he had his own apartment, he says,
"a lot of parents didn't like their daughters' going out with
me. And of course they didn't like their daughters' going out
with Dusty, either. It helped my self-esteem, going to the
Bakers', having a home where I could eat dinner and know I was
welcome."

Dusty would become all-city in baseball and all-county in
basketball, football and track. Basketball was his best sport,
and his favorite. "When Cheech & Chong came out with that song
Basketball Jones, man, that was me," says Baker. "Except I
didn't sleep with the ball." Pickup games in his driveway would
cease at 4 p.m., when Big John came home and Dusty's friends
scattered, lest they be made to do yard work. "My dad saw my
friends as free labor," says Dusty. The father would take his
20-minute nap and then go to Sears to sell TVs, and the games
would resume.

"Dusty's dad scared a lot of kids," says Kludt, "but I
understood where he was coming from. I took to him because of my
own lack of parental guidance. Dusty and I both modeled
ourselves on his parents."

Baker and Kludt cut the short sleeves off their Del Campo
baseball uniforms because they wanted to look like Pittsburgh
Pirates. (Big John saw that Dusty paid for this destruction of
school property.) The two boys sanded the manufacturer's name off
the barrels of their bats and burned their own names into them:
DENNIS (ROCKY) KLUDT and DUSTY (THE HAMMER) BAKER, after their
respective baseball heroes, Rocky Colavito and Hank Aaron.

In the Summer of Love, Rocky and the Hammer were 18 years old
and a mere two-hour drive from ground zero: Haight-Ashbury. "We
saw Joplin, we saw Hendrix, we saw Santana, we saw everybody,"
says Baker.

Says Kludt of Baker's clothes, "I have some pictures he would
probably not want you to see."

"The sign of the times was nonconformity," says Baker. "Vietnam,
or peace and love?" His countercultural excursions had their
limits: Big John forbade his son to set foot in the hippie Hades
of Berkeley. But Dusty's mother tuned in to the late '60s ethos.
She filled their home with books by black writers and thinkers:
Du Bois, Douglass, Baldwin, Garvey and Cleaver. She told her
children, "You have to be better to get something less, in
academics and in sports."

His high school graduation gift from Mom was the use of the
Rambler station wagon and two tickets to the Monterey Jazz
Festival, where Baker had his doors blown off by Jimi Hendrix
and T-Bone Walker. Dusty wanted to be a rock star, a lead
singer, but Big John wouldn't even let him join a garage band.
(Dusty has played in three World Series, but the thought of
singing in public now terrifies him, and he is daily struck dumb
by the eight-year-old girls and 85-year-old accordionists who
perform the national anthem before Giants games. "Man," says
Baker, "put me in a room full of snakes before you make me do
that.")

In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Big John worked in the military.
Christine would soon have, in her words, "the big 'fro." Vietnam,
or peace and love? After Dusty's parents separated during his
senior year in high school, Dusty signed and his mother cosigned
that contract with the Braves.

Big John was outraged. Dusty had been offered a basketball
scholarship to Santa Clara--"I had accepted the scholarship," the
father would say with a laugh years later--and Big John went to
court to try to nullify the Braves contract and the $15,000
signing bonus. Attorneys for both sides eventually agreed to put
the money in a trust for Dusty, who went off to put a death grip
on baseball success while resolving never to speak to his father
again. "He was mad," recalls Big John. "He was supermad. But I
never did have a harsh feeling toward him."

In fact, an educational provision was inserted in the contract:
Should Dusty ever attend college, the Braves would pay his
tuition. "He knows that I still expect him to finish college,"
says his mother.

But he's 50 years old, she is told, with money, job security
and....

Zip it. "He could breeze through college," she says dismissively.
"College is easy."

Racism, which had been occasional in Carmichael, was more
frequent and overt in the minor league towns of the South. At
Triple A Richmond in 1969, Baker lived in the Eggleston Motel, in
a poor black neighborhood, something he hadn't experienced, even
in Riverside. "There were pimps, prostitutes, boosters, hustlers,
numbers men," he remembers. "Dudes with names like Bimbo and
Slop, and one guy who called himself the Reverend Uga Mashak."

"You knew where you could and could not go in those days," says
Sonny Jackson, already in Atlanta with the Braves in 1969. Baker
began reading H. Rap Brown and Malcolm X. He cut Kludt out of
his life simply because he was white. After almost two years of
silence Dusty picked up the phone one night in Richmond and rang
John Sr. to tell him he was becoming a Muslim. The truth was, he
was homesick. "Son," said the father, "a black man who hates
white people and a white man who hates black people are
identical twins."

"He told me that he didn't raise me to be like that," says Dusty.
The two spoke for three hours. "He reminded me that he raised me
in the church."

"You have to remember that the country was divided at that
time," says Kludt. "Dusty had to process who he was and what it
meant to be black in America with white friends. He was under a
lot of peer pressure from other ballplayers. It hurt me that he
was going through that, but it's like a lot of things in life:
If the friendship is something you care about and is meant to
be, it will come back to you."

"I was driving down Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard in spring
training the following year," Baker says, "and all of a sudden I
saw Dennis. He had driven from California to Florida." Baker
thawed instantly.

"He welcomed me with open arms," says Kludt. "True friendship
survives love and money and baseball."

His father and his friend: They were offering to take Dusty's
jacket, and over the next few years he shed it and began to
fashion for himself a new one with materials he'd had all along.
By 1974 John Jr. and John Sr. had fully reconciled, and the
father was in the stands in Atlanta when the son's boyhood hero,
Aaron, hit his 715th home run. Dusty was on deck. "That," says
Big John, shaking his head, "was my proudest moment."

"Dusty has truly honored his father and his mother," says Kludt.
"He is half of each of them."

From his mother, he got rebellion. From his father, rock-ribbed
self-discipline. Of course, those parents divorced, and Dusty
would find that his two natures have irreconcilable differences.
During his first five years in baseball, at the height of the
Vietnam War and of his own radicalism, he became a Marine
Reserve. As a 19-year-old playing Double A ball in Shreveport,
he was assigned brig duty for two weekends in July 1969,
guarding court-martialed U.S. soldiers awaiting transfer to Fort
Leavenworth, Kans. Forbidden to talk to the prisoners, he heard
one of them call from a cell on the first day, "Dusty, I knew
you in Riverside!" The next day came another voice from his
hometown. Baker has no idea how they learned who he was. But he
removed the rounds from his rifle and thereafter patrolled the
prison with a useless firearm.

Recalling it 30 years later, he is again upset. "I said to
myself, I ain't shooting nobody," he says. Baker looks at his
interlocutor for a long time and adds, "You know what I mean,
dude? This ain't right. And when I think something's not right, I
can't go along with it. Sometimes it's a tough road. But my dad
told me, 'If you're right, son, you gotta go down it.'"

A few years later, when Baker was a young star with the Braves,
the Marines asked him to do a recruiting commercial for the
Armed Forces Radio Network. He refused, because Americans were
getting killed in a war they would lose. Three months later he
was asked to do a baseball clinic at which the Marines would be
recruiting. "If I didn't do the first one," said Baker, "I'm
damn sure not doing the second."

"I always taught the children to ask questions," says Christine
Baker. "To vote, to know their history, to know who paid the
dues and to speak up for what is right. But also to pick their
battles: Don't get upset about everything. Stand up for all
people who are mistreated, be they black, white or whatever."

So, when asked, Baker speaks honestly about being one of the big
leagues' three black managers. "Maybe things are changing," he
says one afternoon in his office in San Francisco. "But I don't
think so. There are certain towns that I could probably never
manage in. Some of them have already had one black manager. And
some towns won't accept [one]--the press won't, or the fans, or
members of the country-club set." Baker does not play golf, and
he has disdained country clubs since childhood, when he and John
Sr. mowed the grass at one. Country clubs, he saw, were
exclusionary, a word he didn't want in his life. Still, he would
require one more reminder.

In 1986, though he thought he could still play, Baker was
released by the A's. "A lot of guys I know, especially minority
guys, leave the game kind of angry," he says. "You feel used for
the times you limped out there when you should have been on the
disabled list, and you feel kind of...discarded."

Some of the old bitterness began to return. In 1987 he and his
wife, Harriet, with whom he had a daughter, were divorced. He
despaired of ever finding work in baseball. That year, Dodgers
executive Al Campanis--whom Baker had always respected as a
friend of L.A.'s minority players--appeared on Nightline and
said that blacks lacked "the necessities" for baseball
management. "It hurt me," says Baker, "but it didn't surprise
me, because I knew dudes in high school who I thought were cool,
and I found out later they weren't."

This time it was his sister Tonya--a former Christian missionary
married to a Colombian--who told him not to let racial
resentment harden his heart. "Hate," she said, "is an acid that
corrodes its container."

Campanis's ignorance opened some doors to African-Americans in
baseball. The Giants, for whom Baker had played in '84, asked
him to become a coach in '88, and he took the job, though he
thought he should still be playing. "It will take five years to
get the player out of you," said general manager Al Rosen. In
six years Baker became the Giants' manager, won 103 games and
was named the National League's Manager of the Year.

He remarried in 1994. His wife, Melissa, had a miscarriage last
year, but then she became pregnant with twins, and in February
she gave birth to a boy, having lost the other fetus to
vanishing twin syndrome. "Someday we'll tell our son that he had
a brother or a sister," Dusty says.

As he speaks, he bounces the boy, Darren John Fiesta Baker, on
his knee. The child is resplendent in a bib that says SPIT
HAPPENS. The father is beaming. Tom Seaver recently told Dusty
that the boy will surely be a linebacker at USC, and Dusty loved
that. "Ninety-fifth percentile in height and weight," laughs the
father. Darren is named for former Giant Darren Lewis, to whom
Baker once said, "If I ever had a son, I'd want him to be like
you: determined, smart, intuitive, very respectful, easily
taught, with a mind open to learning."

"When I said that," says Baker, "I didn't know I was gonna have
a son. But I'm a man of my word. That's the way I was raised."
The child's middle name John honors Dusty's father. Fiesta was
the surname of Melissa Baker's grandfather.

"Dusty is a man of honesty, integrity, humility," says the
child's godfather, former Giant Willie McGee. Which explains
why, as Ellis Burks says, "Players want to play for him." Those
six words have become Baker's managerial jacket.

"Dusty has never said this," John Sr. lets slip one day in
Carmichael, where he still lives with his second wife, Mary,
"but I think a reason he became so successful was that he just
didn't want me to be right." In fact, Dusty has said precisely
that, and the son's words are now recited to the father.

"The main reason I worked out all the time was that I didn't
want my dad to be right," Dusty had said weeks earlier in
Pittsburgh, where his father couldn't possibly hear. "Negative
motivation doesn't usually work, but I didn't want to be
released and have my dad be right and say, 'I told you so.' I
had to make it in baseball." Listening to this, John Sr. sits in
his house and stares across the living room. The walls are
filled with photographs of his children, and the window behind
him is a kind of proud picture too. It frames a satellite dish
and a clothesline bearing but one item: a long-dry Giants
T-shirt that flutters like a flag.

"He said that?" John Sr. says after a pause. A longer silence
ensues. "He never told me." His eyes begin to glisten behind
glasses. Almost inaudibly over the air conditioner he says, "I
always thought so."

Sometimes, as in the satellite transmission of a ball game,
messages between two points must be triangulated through a
third. So, two days later, in San Francisco, the scene in
Carmichael is recounted to the son. "It's especially tough to
say 'You were right' to someone who was always right," Dusty
says of his father. "Like a lot of people, I got older and saw
my dad was right. He always had my best interests in mind."

As you may have anticipated, the son has become the father.
Dusty chews toothpicks compulsively. ("Got that from my dad.")
He drives a white pickup. ("Because Daddy always did.") He
doesn't fish on Sundays. ("Worst whipping I ever got," says John
Sr., "was for fishing on a Sunday as a kid. Today I still don't
go fishing on Sunday.")

Recently Tonya told Dusty, "You're starting to act more and more
like Dad." More alarming still, Dusty's daughter, Natosha, a
19-year-old who is in her second year at San Jose State,
declared, "Dad, I'm a rebel."

"That's the last thing I wanted to hear," says Dusty with a
sardonic laugh. "That's what I thought I was at her age."

Even among his many nephews, Dusty has acquired a bit of a jacket
as a disciplinarian. "He will get called and told, so-and-so is
messing up," says Christine, who still lives back in Carmichael.
"And when Dusty comes to town, the nephews hear about it."

"I read something Vince Lombardi said," Baker says. "He wanted
his players and their families to be happy and economically
satisfied. That's what I want. Guys may not like everything that
happens now, but perhaps, as I was told, 'someday you will.' When
you look back and your kids are in college and you don't have
many worries, maybe you will appreciate it. You know what I
mean?"

So the son has become the father, but what you may not have
guessed is this: The father has become the son. Not long ago
John Sr. said a shocking thing. "Berkeley," he said, a pained
expression fissuring his face, "is a center of culture and
change. And change is necessary."

John Sr. drives through Berkeley as he makes the two-hour trip
south to 3Com Park for one game of every Giants home stand. He
watches all other Giants games on television. "I look at the TV
and see me," Senior says of Junior. "I look in the mirror and see
him."

Rest assured, the son can still get under the old man's skin.
When the Giants play at home in the daytime, Dusty rides a
motorcycle to the ballpark. "You're gonna kill your fool self on
that thing," his father tells him.

"Dad," sighs the son, "I'm not as big a fool as I used to be."

In his retro helmet and orange-lensed goggles Baker passes
anonymously among his fellow motorists on Highway 101. "Nobody
knows who I am," he says, exhilarated. "They can't even tell I'm
a brother."

W.E.B. Du Bois, whom Baker loves, wrote of being black in
America: "It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness,
this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of
others." Baker is temporarily delivered from that sensation on
the motorcycle, custom-made for him by the Indian Motorcycle
Company. The bike is hand-painted in red, green, black and
gold--"Rasta colors," Baker says--a profile of Bob Marley
rendered on either side of the gas tank. "Marley still talks to
people," Baker says of the man who sang One Love. "Everyday
people, regardless of race. Music, most of it, has no color, be
it Bobby Womack or Bonnie Raitt or Bob Marley."

On his Marley-Davidson, Johnnie B. Baker Jr. doesn't have to be
black or white or Latin. He can just be. It is all he has ever
wanted. It is practically his middle name.

B. Just be.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY SCOTT CLARKE Rastamobile The gas tank on Baker's custom-made hog pays tribute to a hero, Marley.COLOR PHOTO: NEIL LEIFER Old reliable Though Baker (at bat in '74 and below left) lacked the skills of Ken Griffey Jr. or Barry Bonds, he was a solid player.COLOR PHOTO: RICH PILLING/MLB PHOTOS [See caption above]COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BURGESS Top gun Big John taught Dusty how to hunt and fish, which they still do together.COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT CLARKE Buddy system Kludt became Baker's best friend as a fellow high school football player who never really fit in.COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT CLARKE Shades of the old man Dusty already sees a future for Darren as a big-time athlete.
"I do not want to be a star manager. I played for a star
manager. The players are the ones getting the job done."
"I never thought I was too strict," says Big John. "'Course,
today I'd be put in jail. You can't even chastise your children
today."
"The country was divided," Kludt says of the late '60s. "Dusty
had to process what it meant to be black with white friends."
"If I had a son," Baker told Lewis, "I'd want him to be like
you: determined, smart, intuitive, respectful and easily taught."
"Players want to play for him," says Burks. Those six words have
become Dusty Baker's managerial jacket.