Cubs News

Ryan Dempster shares a touching story explaining why players love Dusty Baker so much

2 years agoTony Andracki

It took 25 years and nearly 4,000 games but Dusty Baker finally notched a World Series ring as a manager.

As the Houston Astros put the finishing touches on the 2022 championship last weekend, some in Cubs nation were also celebrating — including Ryan Dempster.

Baker managed the Cubs from 2003-06 and was at the helm when the franchise came within 5 outs of the World Series in the fall of ’03.

“I was so happy for him,” said Dempster, who pitched for the Cubs from 2004-2012. “Everything he’s been through as a manger, to be so close so many times. To be in San Francisco and then the comeback by the Angels [in 2002] and then 2003 here in Chicago and last year [with Houston], to fall short again. And then to see it finally happen for him, it was remarkable.

“I care so much about the guy. What he did for me as a player was great. He gave me opportunity, he gave me chances, he put me in positions to succeed coming here to Chicago in ’04.

“But what he did for me as a human being and the way he was thoughtful and cared for me. He never called me into the office to ask about baseball. He called me in to ask how my mom and dad were doing. He called me in to ask how my family was, is there anything I needed.”

Baker has always carried the “player’s manager” label throughout his career.

Dempster explained why with a touching story on “Cubs 360” Tuesday evening.

“Dusty Baker called me into the office in 2006 and we were not doing well — things were going downhill and I was closing,” Dempster said. “And he said, ‘what kind of incentives do you have?’ And I said, ‘what?’ I’ve never heard this from any manager ever.

“I said I had incentives for games finished over the course of a couple years. So I go out there and the rest of the year, it didn’t matter if we were winning 8-1, 4-0, 2-0, losing 10-0, I was pitching the last inning of the game. And so now all of a sudden when it came to ’07, I only needed a short little bit of games finished to meet my incentives. A huge bonus — I’m talking 7 figures. A massive amount of money for my family.

“That’s the kind of thoughtfulness that he had, the care that he had for the guys that were in his circle and those guys in that uniform, in the locker room. He cared about everybody that way. I’m just so elated that he finally had his chance and now he gets to win a World Series and cement his place in the Hall of Fame.”

True to the story, Dempster led the National League in games finished with 64 in 2006 despite notching only 24 saves for the 66-win Cubs squad.

Dempster set a career high in games pitched (74) that season.

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