Forget it, he’s rolling. After the Cubs turned their clubhouse into “Animal House,” John Baker kept delivering one-liners to reporters and walked around the room showing teammates the text messages on his phone.
“Go Cubs Go” spilled out of the Wrigley Field sound system at 1:33 a.m. after the backup catcher/emergency pitcher won the longest game in franchise history, a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies that began at 7:07 p.m., took 16 innings and lasted six hours and 27 minutes.
Baker became the first position player in more than 100 years to earn a win for the Cubs, which meant a massive beer shower.
“I got beer,” Baker said. “I got chocolate milk. I got hair gel. I got shampoo. I got body wash. And then I got some more beer. It was great. Best shower I’ve ever taken.”
Baker pumped his fist after getting an inning-ending double play in the 16th inning – and getting over his issues with catcher Welington Castillo.
“I had to shake 'Wely' a couple times, because we just weren’t on the same page,” Baker said. “I trust my stuff.”
He then stepped into the box and drew a leadoff walk, hearing the chants of “Ba-ker! Ba-ker!”
“The last time that many people cheered it was more I got booed in Dodger Stadium (with the Padres) after we got in a fight with the Dodgers,” Baker said. “That was the wildest crowd I ever heard, but that one was kind of sad, because they were booing me.
“That’s any Chicagoan’s dream, to be standing at home plate with the remaining people at Wrigley Field chanting your name. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Baker scored the game-winning run when Starlin Castro lined a sacrifice fly into right field. He hadn’t pitched since playing in the Cape Cod League during a summer away from Cal-Berkeley.
“I believe I had a 27 ERA, but I was getting squeezed, from what I remember,” Baker said. “In this game, I felt like the strike zone was a little more to my benefit, so I tried to exploit that.
“(But) no matter how hard or soft I tried to throw the ball, it ended up in that 76-79 (mph) range.”
This had already become Bizarro World, with Baker warming up in the bullpen while TV broadcasters Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 14th inning.
Manager Rick Renteria raised eyebrows in the 13th inning, when the Cubs led off with two straight walks and couldn’t cash in. Nate Schierholtz didn’t bunt and struck out swinging. Renteria then didn’t use Baker as a pinch-hitter and went with pitcher Jake Arrieta, who failed to lay down the bunt.
“I knew we were kind of short in the bullpen,” Baker said. “It’s kind of a tough situation to put the manager in if you burn your last bench player and then you have no pitching left at all, or something happens to 'Wely.' Fortunately for us, it worked out. I definitely wanted to hit in that situation, but I understood the decision.”
Baker had trouble hiding his smile on the mound, saying “it’s something I will definitely cherish for a long time,” thinking about old teammates who never got a chance to pitch in The Show. He also had a message for his manager.
“I’m definitely available for tomorrow if Ricky needs me,” Baker said. “I can go back-to-back days easy. I don’t know what these guys have a problem with.”