Dusty Baker doesn’t think athletes should “stick to sports”

Dusty Baker
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Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a terrific column up in which he investigates the latest intersection of sports and politics as a result of players kneeling for the national anthem. Those players, of course, have joined Colin Kaepernick’s crusade to bring attention to the inequality people of color deal with when interacting with law enforcement.

Baker was a reservist in the Marine Corps from 1968 to 1974, Nesbitt notes, but he didn’t tell his players they shouldn’t protest by kneeling for the anthem. Baker said, “Sports can’t be silent. They want you to be silent, but this is a microcosm of our whole society. It’s more of a microcosm than probably any other occupation in the world. How many different jobs have as many Latin Americans, blacks, whites, Europeans, Asians — American and from Asia — Africans. You understand? So how can it be separate?”

Baker continued, “These guys have ideas. They’ve all been raised differently. They’ve got some Republicans in [the clubhouse]. They’ve got some Democrats. They have some Trump supporters. They have some Hillary Clinton supporters. … So how can it be separate? They’re actually like the fans themselves, but they’ve just got a baseball uniform on, and you go watch them play.”

Baker also discussed that some things may seem better now than they were when he was younger, but other things have gotten worse. “There was anti-Vietnam. There was riots. There was segregation. There were more things then than there are now. Things have improved in many ways, but they’ve regressed in many other ways. We have a problem. Anybody who doesn’t think we have a problem, they need to look around and ask the young people. And we do have a problem.”

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.