CINCINNATI -- Dusty Baker has earned an invite to six All-Star Games in his 37 years as a player and a manager, but the Reds skipper said his first appearance in 1981 will always hold a special place with him.
The players held a strike from June 12-July 31 that year, moving the original July 14 date back to Aug. 9.
Baker was playing left field for the Dodgers that season. He was batting .301 with 55 hits and 22 RBIs from the three-hole and was selected as a backup for the National League team.
Baker's first moments as an All-Star turned out to be some of his fondest memories.
"I walked into Cleveland Stadium and the first guy I ran into was Pete Rose," Baker said. "Pete said, 'Hey Baker, man I personally told [NL manager Dallas Green] that we wanted you on this team because we want some winners. We hadn't lost to the American League in seven or eight or 10 years or whatever it was, and we're not going to lose this year.' That was a big moment for me, and he said, 'By the way, your locker is right next to me.'"
Rose was right.
The NL edged out a 5-4 comeback win against the AL following Mike Schmidt's go-ahead two-run home run in the eighth inning.
Baker got his opportunity to make an impact in the game when he replaced George Foster in left field in the bottom of the fourth, batting fifth in the order.
He went 1-for-2 on the night, reaching on a fielder's choice in the sixth and knocking a single to left field in the eighth before being replaced by pinch-runner Tim Raines.
Baker also recorded two putouts in left in the sixth inning.
He may not have been the superstar of the All-Star Game, but Baker reinforced that it's not the numbers that make the difference, just the appearance.
"All-Star teams had eluded me all my life in baseball," Baker said. "I was an alternate in Little League, I was an alternate two years in Pony League, I was an alternate in Colt League. I made the All-Star team in Triple-A, but I had to go do my two weeks military duty in the Marine Corps, so I didn't have much success going to the All-Star Game. We went ahead and we won that All-Star Game in Cleveland in 1981."
Baker appeared in the All-Star Game again as a player in 1982 and managed the squad in 2003.
The 2012 All-Star Game will be played at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City on Tuesday, July 10. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.The 83rd All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and Sirius XM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com or royals.com/asg.
Mark Clements is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.