MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Baker feels close attachment to Robinson

Nats manager tells Taylor, Ross 'make Jackie proud' before 9-1 win

Baker feels close attachment to Robinson

PHILADELPHIA -- Dusty Baker made it clear before Friday's 9-1 victory over the Phillies that he would not be manager of the Nationals if not for Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier in 1947.

On the day Major League Baseball celebrated Robinson's first game in the big leagues, Baker went to outfielder Michael Taylor and right-hander Joe Ross and said, "You have to make Jackie proud."

Ross ended up pitching 7 2/3 innings without allowing a run and picking up his first win of the season, while Taylor went 2-for-6 with a leadoff home run.

Even though he never met Robinson, Baker felt he knew a lot about him through his friendships with Jim Gilliam, Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella, who were teammates of Robinson's when all four were with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

"I had hours of sessions with Gilliam, Newcombe and Campanella, Satchel Paige, Hank Aaron. I felt like I knew [Robinson]," Baker said. "There was a little animosity because other guys weren't chosen as the first guy [to break the color barrier]. That's to be expected. But Jackie was chosen for the task. … He was college educated. He was versed to not only handle the pressure, but handled everything."

Baker was reminded recently that he participated in the 42nd Opening Day of his Major League career and was wearing uniform No. 42 against the Phillies on Friday night.

"It feels real good to [win] on this day," Baker said.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.