HOUSTON — Astros manager Dusty Baker was standing in the elevator at their team hotel in Atlanta when outfielder Marwin Gonzalez’s 5-year-old son tugged at his dad’s arm, and whispered.
“Daddy, that’s the man who gives out the wristbands,’’ Brooks Gonzalez said. “I got one.’’
Baker is famous for a lot of things, leading the Astros to the World Series, but with the Fox-TV cameras now zeroed in on him every night, those wristbands are in the national spotlight.
They are the most unique wristbands in baseball, with Baker’s face from his playing days, emblazoned on each wristband.
Baker, 72, began wearing the designed wristbands in the final season of his 19-year career, and hasn’t stopped.
There have been a Who’s Who of stars wearing the wristbands, designed by James Mims, over the past few decades.
You name them, they’ve worn them, with stars like Barry Bonds, Eric Davis, Bill Buckner, Benito Santiago, Joe Carter, David Ortiz, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, including Hall of Famers Andre Dawson, Tony Gwynn, Frank Thomas, Eddie Murray, Tim Raines and Barry Larkin, all donning them.
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The only active players wearing them these days are Nolan Arenado of the St. Louis Cardinals and Josh Harrison of the Oakland A’s.
But now, with Baker wearing the wristbands, business is starting to boom, with even the Smithsonian Institute contacting Mims, seeing if he would be interested in collaborating on a custom wristband that would be sold in museum stores.
Topps also has contacted Mims to design baseball cards, Topps Project 70, with Mims already completing ones for Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Jacob deGrom, Baker, Davis and Sheffield.
“I love it,’’ Mims says. “There’s nothing out there for players that really endorses the player. This speaks to them, period.
“That’s why I’ve been able stay around as long as I have.
It all began when Mims, whose family was close friends with Dodgers infielder Jim Gilliam, met Baker for the first time around 1976. They became friends, and Mims introduced the concept to Baker.
“We talked about putting his autograph on the wristbands,’’ Mims said, “and I said, ‘Let’s put a face on it.'”
Mims wound up hand-stitching Baker’s face onto the wristband, and as technology improved, it became digitalized.
“I remember driving down to Palm Springs in spring training of ‘86, the A’s were playing the Angels,’’ Mims said, “and I gave it to him. He said, ‘Whoa, maybe you got something here.’
“Dusty then introduced me to (A’s players) Carney Lanford, Tony Phillips and Michael Davis.
“It just took off from there.’’
Now, with Baker’s team on center stage, Mims makes sure he is well-stocked with wristbands. Baker has six or seven wristbands to choose from each game, featuring a variety of Astros’ colors. He will wear the same wristband every game until they lose. If the Astros lose that game, he takes it off, and has his son, Darren, pass it out to a young fan.
“Oh, man, even today seeing Dusty wear those wristbands,’’ Mims says, “it brings back so many memories. Really, it was ahead of its time. Now, to see everything personalized, it’s a testament where I was back then.
“Dusty took a chance, and decided to use something so personal, which is his own image.’’
Baker was wearing a yellow-and-orange wristband Tuesday before Game 6, and if there’s a Game 7, you’ll see the same pair on each hand.
“I try to capture the essence of who he was as a player,’’ Mims says. “He was always stylish with the colors. And with Houston, they have so many phenomenal colors, it’s easy to work with.
“You’ve got orange, blue, white, and a hint of red.
“I think we’ve done every possible combination.’’
Who knows, as long as Baker keeps managing, those wristbands could be the rage of Houston.
“It’s amazing how everyone is starting to reach out now (email@example.com),’’ Mims said. “It’s a testament to Dusty. He started it all.’’
Says Baker: “Believe me, I couldn’t be more proud to wear them. Really, it’s an honor.’’
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: World Series: Astros manager Dusty Baker’s wristbands on display
Source: Yahoo Sports