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Dusty Baker on being traded to L.A.: 'I always wanted to be a Dodger'

Dusty Baker on being traded to L.A.: 'I always wanted to be a Dodger'

Dusty Baker might be baseball’s premier storyteller. Get him going any part of his 40-year major-league career as both a player and manager, and he’ll usually offer a fascinating tale down to the granular details.  

So with the Nationals set to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series this weekend, the 67-year-old Riverside, California native was naturally given a chance to reflect on being traded to the L.A. back in his playing days. And as one might he expect, he had a whole lot to say about it.

Here’s the setup: After spending his first eight big-league seasons with the Atlanta Braves, Baker had grown frustrated with his team’s apparent rebuilding effort. He hoped to play for a winning organization and return to Southern California. In other words, he wanted to play for his childhood team. So shortly after the 1975 season ended, Baker let it be known where he hoped the Braves would send him.   

“Man, that’s what I wanted,” he recalled after Wednesday’s pre-NLDS workout. “Cause I didn’t like losing. [The Braves] had traded Hank Aaron, that winter of ’75. I didn’t know the business end of baseball at that time. They traded all of us at the same time, and then sold the club to Ted Turner. They traded Ralph Garr to the White Sox, traded me to the Dodgers, traded Darrell Evans and Marty Perez to the Giants.

“My reaction was, I went in and I asked [Braves general manager] Mr. [Eddie] Robinson. I wanted to be traded back to California because I was tired of being in the South at that time, and I was tired of losing.”

While Baker already had California on his mind, his general manager apparently had different plans.

“And [Robinson’s] reaction to me was: Had I ever been to Cleveland?” Baker said. “So I called Hank, and I asked Hank: ‘How come every time I ask them to trade me, they ask me have I ever been to Cleveland?’ Cause Cleveland wasn’t Cleveland as you see it today. Cleveland’s a good town. But back then they played in old Browns stadium. That was like where you sent the bad actors.”

Upset that he wasn’t going to be traded to his preferred destination, Baker decided to take a scenic, cross-country drive back to his home state.

“So I went in and I told them: I’m getting out of here," Baker said. "And I packed up my, I had a 914 Porsche. I had sold the Ford. I sold my Thunderbird to my mother-in-law. And then I packed up my Porsche, built a little rack on the back, and like Route 66: Across America, going to California.

“They didn’t have cell phones, so I stopped in Carlsbad Caverns. I stopped at the Grand Canyon. To see things I hadn’t seen. And that night I was going to bed. I always wanted to be a Dodger, because I heard the Dodgers had the best athletes, the pretty uniforms, the good bodies. And I was like, shoot, you’re talking about me. That’s the way I thought. I’m serious.”

During one of his stops on the way back to California, Baker learned the news that the Braves granted his wish — albeit a few days after it happened. With no cell phones or social media available in the mid-1970s, Baker didn’t know he was traded until he turned on a television.     

“So then I’m watching the news, and they showed like four players: Jimmy Wynn and (Tom) Paciorek and (Lee) Lacy and Jerry Royster. And I was like: ‘Dang, who’s this bad dude they just traded for?’ And then I saw my picture come up, myself and Ed Goodson. And I called my dad. He said: ‘We’ve been looking for you for two days. You’ve been traded to the Dodgers.’ Eddie Robinson did me a favor, traded me to where I wanted to go.”

After a tough first year with the Dodgers, Baker would go on to hit .281 with 144 home runs and 586 RBI over eight season in Los Angeles. He’d later manage their chief rival in the San Francisco Giants, so west-coast baseball will always have a place in Baker's heart. 

"I was on all the All-Dodger Team," Baker said. "And probably the thing I’m most proud of, I was on the All-Dodger Team as a player and the All-Giant Team as a manager. I don’t think there’s been another one that’s done both. I mean, [current Giants manager] Bruce Bochy soon will take over for me, for sure, if he hasn’t done it already. But that’s part of my history there.”

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Nationals set franchise record for runs in an inning, blow out Rockies

Nationals set franchise record for runs in an inning, blow out Rockies

DENVER -- Bryce Harper hit a three-run homer as part of an 11-run seventh inning, Trea Turner enjoyed another big game at Coors Field and the Washington Nationals routed the Colorado Rockies 16-5 on Thursday.

Turner proved to be a pitcher's nightmare throughout the four-game series. He hit for the cycle on Tuesday, finished a triple shy of another cycle Wednesday and added a double and two singles in the finale -- in all, he had nine extra-base hits, scored 10 runs and had 11 RBIs.

Washington finished 9-1 on its road trip, taking three of the last four at Colorado. What's more, the Nationals scored 11 or more runs in three straight games for the first time since July 1986 at Atlanta, when the team was the Montreal Expos.

Leading 4-2, the Nationals broke the game open in the seventh by sending 15 batters to the plate and pounding out eight hits, including Harper's eighth homer.

Gonzalez (3-0) scattered seven hits over 6 2/3 innings to improve to 4-0 all-time against Colorado. He also had a good day at the plate with two RBIs, including a bases-loaded walk in the big seventh.

Rockies rookie Antonio Senzatela (3-1) couldn't find his typical command in surrendering four runs over six innings.

Turner, who came off the disabled list less than a week ago, made himself at home.

"This ballpark, for whatever reason, feels pretty comfortable to me," the second-year player said. "It's fun hitting here."

His teammates felt the same way as every starter had a hit Thursday.

Before the game, Rockies manager Bud Black said he was going to talk to Senzatela about not walking the pitcher, which he termed a "bad sin." Both Tyler Chatwood and German Marquez did just that the previous two games, paving the way to costly innings.

Senzatela didn't walk the pitcher, but reliever Carlos Estevez did in the seventh.

The damaging play, though, was earlier in the inning, when first baseman Mark Reynolds fielded Harper's grounder and instead of stepping on the bag, threw home to get the runner he figured was breaking for home. Only, the runner wasn't going and the throw wound up in the dugout.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg was reinstated from the paternity list after the birth of his second daughter. Strasburg is scheduled to throw Saturday against the New York Mets.

Rockies: OF Gerardo Parra made a leaping catch in the sixth just before hitting the wall. Parra was shaking his right hand, but stayed in the game.

RESTING SLUGGERS

Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman and Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez didn't start. Both had planned rest days, although manager Dusty Baker struggled with the decision with Zimmerman.

"It's hard to rest him because he's hot," Baker said.

THIS & THAT

OF Charlie Blackmon had two hits to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. ... 3B Nolan Arenado hit a solo homer in the first -- about the only mistake Gonzalez made all afternoon.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (3-1, 1.95 ERA) starts Friday when the Nationals open a three-game series against the New York Mets. Scherzer has 55 strikeouts in his last five games against the Mets, who will throw RHP Jacob deGrom (0-1).

Rockies: LHP Kyle Freeland (2-1, 3.32 ERA) starts Friday at Arizona. The Diamondbacks will throw LHP Robbie Ray (2-0, 3.42).

Related: Nationals place Koda Glover on Disabled List

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Nats' bats remain red-hot in freezing cold Denver

Nats' bats remain red-hot in freezing cold Denver

DENVER  -- Trea Turner nearly hit for the cycle for a second straight night, finishing a triple shy, and Bryce Harper had four more hits to run his average to .432 as the Washington Nationals beat the Colorado Rockies 11-4 on Wednesday.

Turner lined one of three Washington homers, with Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy also going deep, to help the Nationals improve to 8-1 on their 10-game trip.

Tanner Roark (3-0) worked his way out of several jams to throw five solid innings. He allowed two runs and struck out four.

Never quite settling in on a cool night, Tyler Chatwood (2-3) surrendered five runs in five innings.

RELATED: UPDATED 2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

Turner followed his cycle the night before with a solo shot in the fifth for his second homer of the season. Zimmerman hit a two-run shot later in the inning to give Washington a 5-0 lead.

Harper kept up his torrid pace at the plate with four hard hits, including a double. It was his fifth four-hit game of his career and third this season.

Roark ran into trouble in the fifth when the Rockies loaded the bases. He walked DJ LeMahieu to force in a run and gave up another run on Nolan Arenado's fielder's choice. With two outs and two on, Roark struck out Carlos Gonzalez with a 77-mph curve. Gonzalez broke his bat on the ground in frustration.

For the second straight night, a two-out walk in the second inning to the pitcher came back to haunt the Rockies. After Chatwood missed on a 3-2 fastball to Roark, Adam Eaton followed with a two-run single.

On Tuesday, German Marquez issued a two-out walk that turned into a five-run frame in a game the Nationals won 15-12. They have taken two of three in the four-game series with Colorado

RELATED: NATS PLACE RELIEVER ON DL