How Dusty Baker's incredible advice led to Dave Stewart's Athletics resurgence

·3 min read

How Dusty's incredible advice helped save Stew's career originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

  • Programming note: "All A's" featuring Dave Stewart debuts Tuesday, Sept. 6 on NBC Sports California after "A's Postgame Live" following the game against the Atlanta Braves.

Before he helped the Athletics win the 1989 World Series, Dave Stewart almost had given up on baseball.

But Oakland got to see the best of “Smoke” thanks to a word of advice from his teammate Dusty Baker.

Stewart sat down with Brodie Brazil for the latest episode of NBC Sports California’s “All A’s" and detailed exactly what that conversation meant to him as he hit a rough spot in his career.

“So Dusty Baker is here, and Dusty is still one of my closest friends,” Stewart began. “I was telling Baker, you know, the writing was on the wall.”

Stewart had signed a free-agent contract to play for his hometown A’s in May 1986 after being released by the Philadelphia Phillies. He made his Oakland debut with a three-inning relief appearance on May 29, 1986, then pitched five innings of one-run ball against the New York Yankees as a starter just three days later.

Still, Stewart was relegated back to the bullpen afterward and quickly became frustrated at his lack of opportunities. As he told Brazil, this led to a talk with Baker.

“I was already kind of fed up with baseball and the way things were going, so I said, ‘Bake, I think I’m going to give this another week,’ ” Stewart said. “I told him, ‘If nothing happens, I think I’m going to call it, man.’ ”

That’s when Baker shared his two cents.

“So Bake told me, he says, ‘Look, so I can tell you one thing … and this is the one thing I’m going to tell you. Don’t ever give your uniform away. Make them take it,’ ” Stewart shared.

Baker encouraged Stewart to give himself an opportunity to “make more money.” Taking that advice, Stewart did wait -- and his patience paid off.

Tony La Russa was hired shortly after to manage the A’s in the middle of the 1986 season, bringing pitching coach Dave Duncan along with him, and the rest is history. La Russa gave Stewart the opportunity he had yearned for, and his forkball flourished under Duncan’s encouragement.

By late July, Stewart had established himself as a member of the A’s rotation and eventually went on to sign one of baseball’s largest contracts at the time.

“I [told Baker], ‘OK,’ and I waited and I waited and I waited and sure enough, [pitching coach] Wes Stock and [manager] Jackie Moore were fired,” Stewart said. “And in came Tony and in came Dunc, and I got an opportunity to make that first start for Tony and Dunc.”

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Stewart went on to finish the A’s 1986 season with 17 starts, compiling a 9-5 record and a 3.74 ERA. He won 20 games in 1987, and in 1988 he led the American League with 14 complete games and 275 2/3 innings pitched.

The accolades go on and on for Stewart following that fateful conversation with Baker, including being named World Series MVP after helping the A’s beat the Giants in 1989.

It’s safe to say Stewart took his teammate’s advice quite literally, going on to pitch in the majors until 1995 and forever solidifying his place in Oakland history.