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September 28, 2001

Dusty Baker


Q. You've watched Barry all year, and at 37, what's different and why do you think he's here?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, probably a matter of a highly-sustained level of concentration and focus. I'm sure being his option year, not hurt at all and being that we exited the playoffs rather quickly last year, probably a lot of these things are factors, as far as him just having the ability to concentrate and focus on a daily level. Plus the fact that he's worked out a lot last winter. He always works out a lot, but he looks a little quicker inside than he did -- he was always quick inside, but he seems to be even quicker inside than before. And the fact that he's not pulling all the balls. A number of his home runs have come to dead centerfield. Most of the guys who hit a lot of home runs pull the ball a lot. You know, whether they pitch you away and you hit the ball to left field or they pitch you away and you hit the ball to centerfield, now it's a little bit more difficult to pitch.

Q. Rickey Henderson going for the run record, that's kind of gotten overshadowed, would you talk about the significance of that record?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, I think that's a heck of a record to obtain. Again, in baseball, the name of the game is how many home runs you hit or how many base hits base hits you hit, as much as he who scores the most runs wins, and it's very simple.
You know, Rickey has touched home plate more than anybody in history except for Ty Cobb, and the fact that at his age, he can still run, the amount of bases that he's stolen, he's not really banged up. And everybody, as you get older -- as you get older, you tend to lose your legs, but Rickey still has his legs. All of the stolen base attempts, all of the stolen bases that he's made; that's what amazing to me is the fact that his legs are so good at 42 years old.

Q. Is it a record that is unlikely to be broken?
DUSTY BAKER: It won't be broken for a long time. A guy would have to get here for a very early age and a guy would have to stick around for a long, long time without getting hurt, too. They said Babe Ruth's record might not be broken either. You just don't know when, but I don't foresee it in the near future. Because it has to be a leadoff man extraordinaire, but it has to be a leadoff man that has power, like Rickey, that not only score runs that other people drive him in, but can drive himself in with 200-some odd home runs and a guy that probably is on a couple teams have high-powered offenses in order to drive him in.

Q. Do you have a favorite Rickey run, manufacturing something on the base pads?
DUSTY BAKER: No. But I remember when Rickey was talking to Jim Palmer one time and I asked him who the best player in the American League who I hadn't seen because I was in the National League and he told me Rickey, and that's when Rickey was very young.
And my favorite Rickey commercial was the guy eating Rolaids trying to figure out how he was going to throw Rickey Henderson out. To me, that's as good as you can explain Rickey.

Q. Tony Gwynn, earlier he was talking about how Barry may be taken for granted because he's done so much every year. What he's done now, put him in a class with great players that maybe people haven't thought about, putting him in with Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle?
DUSTY BAKER: He might be taken for granted by some people, but I don't think he's taken for granted by people in the baseball world, people that play against him, people that play with him, and you just don't sneak up on 500 home runs. That's years of excellence; that's years of continued consistent excellence; that's years of training. That also has a lot to do with your baseball intellect. When a guy has that many home runs for this period of time, there's no Kryptonite that they haven't tried, anything. You've tried everything to stop him, and if you're the Player of the Decade, the player of this -- considered the best player in baseball in this era, is certainly automatically in that class. And it's not only about the numbers, but the numbers, you know, put you in that class; the fact that more names are now consistent instead.

Q. You have win some games this weekend, but at the same time do you get an appreciation for all of the things that are going on with Rickey, Barry and Tony Gwynn, as well?
DUSTY BAKER: I have a tremendous appreciation, being a former player, for the things they have accomplished, the things they are about to accomplish and the fact that there's three quality people here and three Hall of Famers here. But, you know, most of my appreciation comes before the game and after the game. During the game, my appreciation focuses towards winning the game.

Q. McGwire and Sosa seemed to hit a lot of home runs that are lofty, and Barry hits more that seem like line drives. What does that say about the difference in their swings?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, I think McGwire and Sammy probably use -- especially McGwire, uses leverage as much as he uses strength. They both swing from the end of the bat. Barry chokes up, stands on the plate. Like Hank Aaron told me years ago: "It's not how far; it's how many." It doesn't matter if they go 315 feet and it's 312 or they go 415 feet. People love to talk about the distance more than they do the number. In Big Mac's case, and Sammy's over the last few years, it's distance and numbers, where Barry has always had the numbers, and this year, he's added more distance. He's hit some monster shots, but that's how he hits. He's a hitter with power versus a slugger.

Q. Would you say that this is one of the longer stretches of time you've seen somebody like that just dialed in?
DUSTY BAKER: I would say he's hit the most home runs I've ever seen hit in a year. Like I said, his concentration and focus this year is unparalleled to anybody I've been around, and I've been around some great, great players. But day-in and day-out, you know, it just seems like you expect them, it happens and it happens when you need it.
You know, you hate to see the season coming to a close and you want to remember and see this picture for a long time. You know how sometimes you get some songs that go off the radio that you wish they would keep playing for another five minutes? That's how it is this year watching Barry hit. That's why we want to get to the post-season because we are not ready to go home. We are not ready to end this.

Q. When McGwire set the record, it was said it was a slugger's record, will it change the perception, with Barry being such an all-around player?
DUSTY BAKER: Do you mean by -- in one season, do you mean?

Q. Yes.
DUSTY BAKER: Okay. Because see, I played with Hank Aaron, and he's a hitter and a slugger. You know, much like Willie Mays; he's a hitter and a slugger. A lot of times, it is a slugger's record, but Big Mac is not your typical slugger. Barry and Big Mac have a lot in common, as much as they both walk a lot, don't strike out -- didn't strike out a whole, whole bunch. The difference probably is Barry probably struck out less than McGwire or less than he has over the course of the season.

Q. You said something interesting that Barry chokes up. What does that it say about you can't get singles hitters to choke up? What does it say about chocking up now that Barry can hit home runs that way, too?
DUSTY BAKER: The difference is that Barry probably has been choking up most of his life. He found what works for him. The fact that he chokes up and still hits it out, that's indicative of the fact that he stands on top of the plate, which makes him -- he's hitting like with probably a 30-inch bat, which is mostly all the head of the bat. He's like hitting with a paddle. That's what it's like. He's like playing paddleball, racquetball, versus baseball. But you have to be exceptionally quick inside and have outstanding eyesight, to be inside and stand on top of the plate. Most guys who stand on top of the plate are short in stature, that are smaller and don't have the arm length that a guy Barry's size has.
Again, he's found what to do and works for him at a very young age and sticks with it, where a lot of guys, it takes them years to find out how they are supposed to hit, where they are supposed to stand on the plate through trial and error. Barry told me before he'd been hitting home runs for a long time. His high school coach, he told me about one Barry hit over this tree, on top of this building, across the street. So, you know, Barry's power to me is something he inherited from his dad and he's perfected it to a higher level and degree.

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