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Dusty Baker has flood of memories back in Texas

Friday - 6/28/2013, 9:20pm  ET

STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Sports Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Dusty Baker was feeling a bit nostalgic when the Cincinnati Reds got to Rangers Ballpark, even though it was the manager's first trip there with his current team.

Baker remembered being part major league baseball's first regular-season interleague game, managing San Francisco to a 4-3 victory at Texas on June 12, 1997. The Giants also played games there in 1999 and 2001.

"Just thinking back, it didn't seem like it was a very long ago," Baker said Friday before the opener of a three-game weekend series.

There were also thoughts of the late Johnny Oates, the former Rangers manager who was Baker's teammate with the Atlanta Braves (1973-75) and Los Angeles Dodgers (1977-79).

Oates led the Rangers to their first three AL West titles (1996, 1998 and 1999) but resigned early in the 2001 season. That was before Baker's last visit to Rangers Ballpark and the same year Oates was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Oates died on Christmas Eve in 2004.

"I remember that my good friend Johnny Oates was still alive at that time we played," Baker said. " I thought about my teammate Johnny Oates, and just how different things are."

Cincinnati's only previous visit to Rangers Ballpark was in 2002, Baker's last season with the Giants.

Baker also spoke Friday with John Burkett, the two-time All-Star who was the winning pitcher for the Giants in Baker's managerial debut April 6, 1993, at St. Louis. Burkett later pitched for the Rangers and still lives in Texas.

"He was asking me, 'Can you believe it was 20 years ago that we won that game?'" Baker said. "Time goes by, rather quickly."

There is also a past connection with Baker and Rangers manager Ron Washington, who made his major league playing debut with 10 games for the Dodgers during the 1977 season. Washington is in his seventh season in Texas, and led the Rangers to their only American League championships in 2010 and 2011.

"He was my teammate, and at the time he was a little rookie. I'm proud of what he's done," said Baker, who was asked if he could have then envisioned Washington as a manager. "No, none of us ever imagined. I never imagined being a manager. I never dreamed of being a manager."

When Baker and the Giants first played at Texas 16 years ago, interleague play outside the World Series was unique and still quite limited. With 15 teams each in the American League and National League now, there is always at least one interleague series being played at any time.

"It's no longer a novelty," Baker said of interleague play. "It still hasn't been perfected. They've made it all year versus the month of June and part of July."


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