Eric Risberg / AP

In this March 13, 2014 photo, Dusty Baker carries a bag of greens he just cut while walking through the yard at his home in Granite Bay, Calif. While his former players and fellow managers are busy preparing for opening day, Baker is busy tending to his crops, planning his next plantings and minding his vineyard and the several hybrid fruit trees that border it. Out of uniform for the first time since taking 2007 off between managerial jobs with the Cubs and Reds, Baker is not slowing down much from his pressure-packed days in the dugout.

Poll

Who is the greatest home run hitter of all time?

Leading Off: Dusty’s top memory: Aaron’s 715th homer

Published: Thursday, Apr. 10, 2014 - 7:30 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 10, 2014 - 7:48 pm

Dusty’s top memory: Aaron’s 715th homer

Dusty Baker played 19 major-league seasons. He was an All-Star, won a World Series with the Dodgers in 1981 and went on to become a three-time Manager of the Year, including with the Giants.

So what’s the greatest baseball moment for the former Del Campo High School star?

Someone else’s at-bat.

When Baker played for the Atlanta Braves, he was in the on-deck circle on April 8, 1974, and he watched with glee as his mentor and friend, Hank Aaron, smashed his 715th career home run to surpass Babe Ruth.

That milestone 40 years ago this week resonates with Baker, who is out of managing and coaching this season and watches son Darren play at Jesuit.

“The highlight of my career? That was it,” Baker said.

He said Aaron helped ease him into the major leagues as a soothing, unflappable leader. Aaron assured Baker’s parents he would look after him.

Baker said he admired Aaron’s hitting ability, his pitch recall and especially his poise, including enduring racially motivated death threats as he closed in on Ruth’s hallowed record.

“I was with Hank every day,” Baker said. “A class guy.”

Baker recalls Aaron telling him on that cold night in Atlanta he was going to homer, to get it over with. It was Aaron’s first swing of the game, in the Braves’ home opener.

Baker then slapped a double after Aaron, a forgotten footnote to history.

– Joe Davidson

jdavidson@sacbee.com


What to do

Baseball, Arizona at Giants, 7:15 p.m., CSNBA : Can Ryan Vogelsong rebound from last week’s first start, when he gave up four runs – including two home runs – to the Dodgers in four innnings?


What to watch

The Masters, noon, ESPN : Leader Bill Haas is trying to do what his father, Jay, couldn’t in 22 tries – win golf’s top event.

Today’s poll

Who is the greatest home run hitter of all time?

• Hank Aaron

• Barry Bonds

• Mickey Mantle

• Willie Mays

• Babe Ruth

• Other

Vote above, or go to sacbee.com/sports


Monday’s results

What should Kings forward Rudy Gay do?

• Sign a long-term deal with the Kings: 56%

• Return for his option year, then become a free agent: 28%

• Become a free agent after this season: 16%

Total votes: 175

Read more articles by Joe Davidson



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