The bakers’ dozen of baseball (Part 1)

By Gary Norris Gray, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: July 18, 2010

Cito Gaston

Cito Gaston

CALIFORNIA (BASN) — Now that the second half of the 2010 baseball season has begun, we take a look at the accomplishments of African American managers in Major League Baseball.

There is hope in the future for Black managers if they are given the opportunity.

These men prove that African Americans can lead men on the field. Maybe one day this list will no-longer be needed because these talented men will be hired for their skills and not their heritage or forced by law.

Here is the short list of African-American managers in Major League Baseball history presented in alphabetical order.

Dusty Baker (Giants, Cubs, and Reds)

He could be the first African American to take three different teams to the playoffs. His first year in San Francisco (1993), he was named the NL’s Manager of the Year. Baker would lead the Giants into the 2002 World Series becoming the second African American to do so. He was two outs shy of taking the Chicago Cubs to the World Series in 2003.

However, a fan named Steve Bartmen would continue the Cubs’ curse by reaching over the wall taking a foul ball away from Moises Alou’s glove in Game 6 of the NLCS. The Florida Marlins would win the game and the series. Baker could catch Frank Robinson with the number of victories by an African-American manager if he stays in the game long enough.

Don Baylor (Rockies and Cubs)

He played for several team during his career including the Boston Red Sox, California Angels, New York Yankees and Oakland A’s. The AL’s MVP in 1979, Baylor was one of the greatest designated hitters in AL history. In 1995, he became the NL’s Manager of the Year guiding the Rockies to their first playoff appearance. Baylor also accomplished something no other coach has. Under his leadership the Rockies achieved a 363-384 record — the best for any expansion team in a five-year stretch. After a three-year stint with the Cubs, he would eventually return to Colorado as the Rockies’ hitting coach.

Cecil Cooper (Astros)

The former Milwaukee Brewer standout would manage a team that did not have a single African American position player. He has a 500 managerial record 171-170. He was often called the invisible man of baseball world but Houston management would not or could not give him the players to win. Cooper overachieved in 2008 without a solid pitching staff by winning 86 games.

Larry Doby (White Sox)

In 1978, he became the second African American manager in baseball history. Previously, the future Hall of Famer followed Jackie Robinson in breaking the color line in 1948 as a player. Maverick owner Bill Veeck hired him to inspire the slumping Sox in the middle of the ’78 season, relieving Bob Lemon. At the end of the season Veeck would fire Doby and hire former Cub Don Kessinger. Frank Robinson complained that Doby did not get a fair deal and stated that Veeck hired Doby as a publicity stunt and guaranteed him a spot in the baseball record books. Robinson may have been correct because Doby would never receive another job offer as a manager.

Cito Gaston (Blue Jays)

Before Joe Torre, Gaston was the last manager to win back to back world championships (1992-93). Gaston is the first and only African American to ever achieve this feat. He’s also taken the Blue Jays to five divisional titles — the most of any African American manager. He returned to the game three years ago after a nine year absence to revive the struggling franchise. His quiet manner never rattles players.

He always looks for the best in every player and the Blue Jays really needs that this year as one of the four contending teams in AL East.

Davey Lopes (Brewers)

He was one of the leaders of the pennant-winning Dodger squads of the 1970’s. A part of one of the the longest tenured set of infielders in MLB history, Davey was a Gold Glove winner, four time All Star, and two time World Series champion. In 2000, Lopes led Milwaukee to 73 victories and it appeared like they really wanted to play winning baseball. Lopes always demanded perfection in his players and in his second year it wore thin with many players. This would lead the Brewer management to release him. Currently Lopes enjoys employment at first base, coaching the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies

NEXT: The other African-American managers in MLB history.