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Elephant Rumblings: Dave Stewart recalls Dusty Baker’s career-saving advice

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MLB: San Francisco Giants at Oakland Athletics Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Labor Day, Athletics Nation!

This Sunday, the A’s will retire jersey number 34, that of legendary hurler Dave Stewart, who led the team to its last World Series Championship in 1989. According to Smoke himself, that crowning moment may never have been his were it not for some timely encouragement from teammate Dusty Baker three years earlier.

Per Angela Martin at NBC Sports Bay Area, Stewart, in conversation with “All A’s” host Brodie Brazil, recalled that he was frustrated to the point of wanting to give up the game in 1986, his first season with the A’s. He’d signed with Oakland as a free agent after being released by the Phillies, but felt he was being unfairly relegated to the bullpen.

Stewart told friend and teammate Baker that if his situation didn’t turn around quickly, he was “going to call it.”

This is how Dusty replied, in Stew’s words:

“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 heeded Baker’s words, and before long Tony La Russa took over as A’s manager with pitching coach Dave Duncan in tow. La Russa put Stewart in the rotation, Duncan helped him develop his forkball, and the rest is history.

The A’s will play the White Sox on the day of the ceremony, but sadly, La Russa is away from his managerial duties for Chicago due to medical reasons.

AN thanks Dusty Baker for talking some sense into Smoke on the day of that fateful conversation. Could the A’s have won it all in ‘89 without their series MVP? I’m happy that we’ll never know.

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