Darren Baker: The Highlight of the 2002 World Series
Ask any baseball fan about their favorite memory of the 2002 World Series with the San Francisco Giants and the Anaheim (now Los Angeles) Angels and most will tell you it was in game 5 when J.T. Snow scooped 3-year-old batboy Darren Baker from home plate and out of harm’s way.
If you didn’t see the play, let me paint the picture for you: It’s the seventh inning on a Thursday night in San Francisco at was then called Pacific Bell Pak. The Giants were up to bat and leading the Angels 8-4 in front of a crowd of 42,712 spectators. J.T Snow was on third base, David Bell was on second, and with one out, Kenny Lofton comes up to bat.
Lofton, who just happens to be young Darren Baker’s favorite player, smacks a long fly ball to right field that ricochets off the brick wall. Snow scores easily as Bell rounds third and is charging fast trying to beat a possible play at the plate.
Above, and photos below: Darren Baker playing second base for the Jesuit High School Marauders in Carmichael, California.
Eager to beat the other batboy to grab the bat of his favorite player, Darren Baker scoots out and heads for the plate as the rushing David Bell closes in on the dish. Young Baker reaches home plate just after Snow had crossed it, and in front of Bengie Molina, the Angels catcher who was poised to take a possible throw from the outfielder. Molina was getting ready for a major collision with Bell when little Baker stepped in front of him.
Molina was surprised and tried to nudge Darren back away from the plate with his right arm all the while keeping an eye on the storming Bell and the baseball, both heading toward him. At the last second, Snow, who had over run home plate as any trained baseball player is taught to do, raced back to the plate, grabbed Darren by the front of his black Giants jacket and swooped him out of harm’s way.
“I tried to grab him, too,” Molina said. “I knew he’d get hit, but J.T. grabbed him first, thankfully.”
Darren’s father and Giants manager Dusty Baker said, “The Lone Ranger would have been proud. It looked like he scooped him up from the horse.”
“He usually stands behind me and I tell him to go before he goes out,” Dusty Baker said. “That time, he was going to get a jump on everybody. We were all watching the ball… I just have to monitor him a little closer.”
The next day, Friday, manager Baker received a phone call from executive vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, Sandy Alderson. Alderson told Baker that he would prevent young Baker from working as a batboy that and in a possible Game 7 on Sunday night, but he did tell the older Baker to hold a tighter rein on his enthusiastic young son during games.
Sandy Alderson also received a call from the Angels who expressed their concern for not only Darren’s safety but the players and umpires on the field. After the 2002 series, Darren Baker would forever remain a part of baseball lore as the “Darren Baker Rule,” that was established requiring bat boys and girls to be at least 14 years old.
“It’s not going to happen again,” Dusty Baker said Friday at Edison Field. “I’m not proud of it. I don’t like seeing my son all over TV in that light. Some people think it’s cute, but I don’t. I don’t like reading about him in the paper. He even told me he’s tired of being in the paper.”
Under normal circumstances, Dusty Baker ran a family-friendly team and several Giants players’ sons, including Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, J.T. Snow and Shawon Dunston, were allowed to work as batboys. Over the course of the 2002 season, Darren Baker became the teams good-luck charm as the Giants were 8-0 when he was the batboy.
It seems, however, that the person most shook up after the near disastrous collision between a full-grown veteran baseball player and a toddler batboy was the home plate umpire, Mike Reilly. As Reilly watched the play unfold, surprise turned to shock as the young Baker suddenly appeared at the plate with a runner rounding third base and heading straight for the kid. The ball was still alive and out of nowhere J.T. Snow shows up and yanks the young boy from the grasp of a close call with disaster.
Reilly, when reached after the game for an interview at his Anaheim hotel the next day said, “I see J.T. is going to be safe, then I see this little rascal slip out there. He got out there before I could stop him. By the time I put my hands out, it was too late. He was already on top of us.”
“What if there was really a play there, a very close play?” Reilly said. “The runner is getting down, the catcher is there, the ball is coming in.”
Before game 6 of the series, Reilly, who was a 26-year major league veteran, gave some advice to the older Giants batboys and told them to remind young Darren Baker to be more careful. In the interview he also said that he had gotten a lot of phone calls after the famous play from friends and family, including his kids back at home in Michigan. “Nobody was really interested in saying, “Nice game.” They wanted to know about the Darren Baker play!”
Dusty Baker was the Giants manager from 1993-2002. He left the team after their loss to the Angels, under difficult terms, to become the manager of the Chicago Cubs where he would move the family. It was a particularly emotional time for not only Giants fans but young Baker, who would be moved to tears when the Giants came within six outs of winning the World Series title.
Darren Baker’s High School accomplishments:
• Graduated from Jesuit High School (Carmichael, Calif.)
• Drafted by Washington Nationals in 27th round of 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft, but did not sign
• Was Jesuit’s Most Outstanding Team Player & Most Outstanding Defensive Player as a senior in 2017
• Decorated prep athlete, earning honors such as All-Delta League First Team, All-Metro First Team & All-City First Team
• Slashed .396/.476/.960 as a senior
• Named California All-Region First Team by Perfect Game, All-State Second Team by MaxPreps & All-California Second Team by USA Today as a senior
• Slashed .386/.448/.884 in 30 games as a junior & was an All-Delta League Second Team & All-Metro Honorable Mention pick
• Member of 2016 Oakland Athletics Area Code Team
• 2016 Perfect Game All-American Second Team selection
• Member of 2013 USA Baseball 14U National Team Development program
• Two-time member of USA Baseball Northern California NTIS program
• Played summer ball for NorCal Baseball
• Played for DC Grays of the Cal Ripken League in the summer of 2017
Darren Baker is now a 6-foot, 175 pound infielder for the University of California at Berkeley. In his junior year he has already put up a fine list of college career accolades:
2020 Bobby Bragan Collegiate Slugger Award Watch List
2020 Perfect Game Preseason All-Pac-12 Team
2019 Cape Cod League All-Star Game selection
2019 Pac-12 All-Defensive Team
2018 (Freshman year at Cal)
• Consistent contributor as a true freshman, starting 42 games as the Bears’ primary second baseman
• Batted .273 with six doubles, one home run, 29 runs, 23 RBI & five stolen bases
• Hit a walk-off home run vs. Brown (March 10)
• Had 16 multi-hit performances, including four three-hit efforts vs. Xavier, UC Davis, Utah & Washington State
• One of Pac-12’s best defenders, compiling a .983 fielding percentage with just three errors on the season
2019 (Sophomore year at Cal)
• Developed into one of conference’s premier defenders as a sophomore, garnering a spot on Pac-12 All-Defensive Team
• Batted in spots No. 1, 2, 5 & 6 of the order & hit .306 with four doubles, one triple & 19 RBI
• Had a stellar summer with Cape Code League’s Wareham Gatemen, earning spot in all-star game & finishing fourth in league batting race
• Slashed .342/.384/.376 in summer for Wareham Gatemen
• Swiped a perfect 21 bases on 21 attempts for Cal, finishing second in the Pac-12
• One of four Cal players to start all 52 games
• Made just six errors over the final 48 games of the season
2020 (Junior year at Cal)
• Started all 16 games at second base & led Cal in hits (18) & at bats (63)
• Batted .286 & scored a team-high 15 runs
• Tallied five RBI, four stolen bases, seven walks & two extra-base hits (one double, one triple)
• Posted an on-base percentage of .366 & slugging percentage of .333
• Recorded a team-leading 34 defensive assists & posted a .982 fielding percentage with just one error over 57 chances
• Led the Bears with five multi-hit performances, including a 3-for-4 effort vs. No. 10 Michigan (March 4)
• Ripped his triple in Cal’s midweek win over Stanford (Feb. 25)
• Had a hot start to the season with four games of at least two hits & two runs scored over a five-game span (Feb. 16-23)
More photos of Darren Baker while at Jesuit High School:
Below, a mock-up of a proposed J.T. Snow and Darren Baker joint bobblehead.
Below, a replica of a 1959 Topps baseball card featuring Darren Baker.
All photographs are the copyright of Jim Jackson Photography. Please contact me for authorization to use or for signed, high-resolution copies.
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