Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dallas Green, 1934-2017

Dallas Green and Larry Bowa, October 21, 1980

Considering how angry he got, I'm surprised he didn't yell himself into a fatal heart attack before he got the job done in 1980.

"I'm a screamer, a yeller and a cusser," Dallas Green once said. "I never hold back."

But get the job done he did. And he was part of getting the job done for them again in 2008. This Phillie was a giant.

George Dallas Green was born on August 4, 1934, in Newport, Delaware, a small town about 4 miles southwest of downtown Wilmington and 30 miles southwest of Philadelphia City Hall. A righthanded pitcher, he graduated from Conrad High School in 1952, and got a scholarship to the University of Delaware. After the 1955 college baseball season, he was signed by his "hometown" Philadelphia Phillies.

But although he grew to be 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, his road to the major leagues was tough. Fortunately, so was he. It took him 4 years of Triple-A ball, in Miami and Buffalo (I'm presuming that, due to the weather, he preferred Miami), before the Phillies finally brought him up.

It was June 18, 1960, and he was just short of turning 26. The Phillies played the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park. He started, and the 1st batter he faced was Eddie Bressoud. He got Bressoud out, but he got wild, walking Joey Amalfitano and Willie Mays, allowing an RBI single to Orlando Cepeda, walking Willie Kirkland, and allowing a sacrifice fly to Andre Rodgers to make it 2-0 Giants. He settled down, and got into the 6th inning, but fell behind 7-0 before being relieved. A 9th inning comeback fell short, and the Phillies lost 7-4.
His 1965 Topps card

He went 2-4 for the 1961 Phillies team that set a 20th Century record with 23 straight losses. He was converted into a reliever in 1964, and went 2-1 with a 5.79 ERA, finishing only 7 games, but it certainly wasn't his fault that the Phillies lost 10 straight in last September and blew a sure Pennant. But he was traded to the Washington Senators for 1965, to the Mets for 1966, and back to the Phillies in 1967, and released before that season was out. He finished 20-22 with a 4.26 ERA.

"I was a 20-game winner," he liked to say. "It just took me 5 years to do it."

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But being a Phillie and a Delaware native caught the attention of the Phillies' owner, Bob Carpenter, a Delaware native, and a member of 2 prominent area families, the Carpenters of Philadelphia and the du Ponts of Delaware. The University of Delaware's basketball arena is named for him.

Bob and Dallas became friendly, and Bob made Dallas the pitching coach for the Double-A Reading Phillies. He won the 1969 Appalachian League Pennant as manager of the Virginia Panhandle-based Pulaski Phillies, and was called up to the Phils' major league coaching staff in 1970, as they made the transition from Connie Mack Stadium to Veterans Stadium in 1970-71.

In 1972, Bob Carpenter handed control of the team over to his son Ruly, who rebooted the legendary underachievers: He made Paul Owens the general manager, and Dallas Green the director of the farm system. Together, Owens and Green built a team that would have a winning record by 1975, and would reach 6 Playoff berths in 8 seasons from 1976 to 1983. And if that had been the limit of Green's contributions to the Phillies, it would have been enough to make him an important figure in team history.

But he would be so much more. Indeed, he and Owens are the defining figures in the Phillies' 134-season history. (The 2017 season will be their 135th.)

In 1976, the Phillies won the National League Eastern Division, the team's 1st 1st-place finish in 26 years. They had future Hall-of-Famers in 3rd baseman Mike Schmidt and pitcher Steve Carlton. They had All-Stars in 2nd baseman Dave Cash, shortstop Larry Bowa, left fielder Greg Luzinski, center fielder Garry Maddox, right fielder Arnold "Bake" McBride, catcher Bob Boone, and relief ace Tug McGraw. They lost the NL Championship Series to the defending World Champion Cincinnati Reds, ending a wonderful season on a down note, but hardly shameful.

But they blew the NLCS (with help from bad umpiring) to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1977, and blew it again in 1978. Signing the legendary Reds star Pete Rose as a free agent, to take the place of Richie Hebner at 1st base, didn't seem to help. On August 31, 1979, with the team mired in 4th place, under .500 at 65-67, including losing 8 of their last 9, Owens fired Danny Ozark as manager, and hired Green to manage the team for the rest of the season, just to see what needed to be done.

Green saw players with a lot of talent, but no passion. No team spirit, no willingness to fight for each other, figuratively or literally, like the NHL's recent back-to-back Stanley Cup-winning Philadelphia Flyers. No burning desire to make up for past mistakes, like the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles had (though they ended up not winning a title under head coach Dick Vermeil). No attitude of "We owe you one," like the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers told their fans (though it would take them even longer to win a title, until 1983). Certainly, no resemblance to Philadelphia-based heavyweight boxing champions, the real-life Joe Frazier and the cinematic Rocky Balboa.

Dallas Green could have given the manager's speech from the later movie Bull Durham, calling the players "lollygaggers," and calling any games they won "a miracle." Except those were kids, just starting out in the minors. These were, mostly, seasoned veterans, and they were wasting their talent and their chance for a title, and they were getting away with it.

"Ozark put out the lineup the first day of the season, and left us alone," Boone said. "We policed ourselves."

And therein lay the problem. Or, as Boone also put it, "There was the impression that there was a country-club atmosphere, and he would come in with his whip. The players resented it." Green didn't blame Ozark, a nice guy with a hands-off style. He blamed the players, especially the veterans. He told the team, point-blank: "The Phillies didn't fire Danny Ozark. You guys did."

They won their next 4 games, sweeping a series away to the Atlanta Braves and taking the 1st game of one away to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He sent them on a 10-2 run in mid-September. There was a 4-game losing streak, but they won 3 of their last 4, finishing a mediocre 77-85, but a strong 19-10 under Green.

That convinced Owens that the "interim" tag should be removed, and that Green should be the full-time manager. It was a gamble: Aside from the recent example of Bob Lemon with the 1978 Yankees, no pitcher had ever managed a team to a World Series win.

Green challenged the old guard. He brought up Lonnie Smith to let "Bull" Luzinski know his left field job was not safe. He did the same by bringing up catcher Bo Diaz to breathe down Boone's neck. And Keith Moreland to play several positions. With Cash already having gone via free agency, and Ted Sizemore being a good glove but a total liability at bat, he'd convinced Owens to trade for 2nd baseman Manny Trillo. To challenge established starting pitchers Carlton, Larry Christenson and Dick Ruthven, he brought up young pitchers Kevin Saucier, Warren Brusstar, Bob Walk, Dickie Noles and Marty Bystrom.

On Opening Day at Veterans Stadium, Green posted a rule sheet, which began, "Any players acting unprofessionally, or embarrassing me or the club, will be fined at my discretion."

Carlton, a major leaguer since 1965, already a World Champion with the 1967 St. Louis Cardinals, and perhaps already with enough career statistics to get into the Hall of Fame, refused to read any further. Bowa told the media that the players were being treated like high school kids. Green would have said that was because they were acting like it.

"We hated him," Boone said. "He was driving us crazy. But it was a relationship that worked." Even McGraw, whose out pitch was the screwball, and had a personality that could also be called "Screwball" (indeed, that was the title of his memoir), knew that more discipline was needed. It may not have been a coincidence that, aside from Rose (with the 1975 and '76 Reds) and Carlton, McGraw was the only Phillie who came into the '80 season with a World Series ring (from the '69 Mets).

At the All-Star Break, the Phillies were only half a game behind the defending World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL East, with the rising Montreal Expos making it a 3-team race. But on August 10, the Phils, well, lollygagged their way to a 7-1 loss in the 1st game of a doubleheader in Pittsburgh, to fall 6 games behind the tied Pirates and Expos, with 58 games to play. This was a 4-game losing streak, not long after a 6-game losing streak.

Something had to be done. Green let them have it. He probably figured that the worst that could happen is that things wouldn't get better this season, so he and Owens could dump the veterans and start fresh in '81. But why shouldn't things get better this season? In spite of his anger, Green reminded him that they were the best team in Phillies history, and that they should start winning like it.

Green's tirade was so loud, the Philadelphia baseball writers, always on the lookout for a juicy story that makes a local team look bad, were able to write it down through the wall. "They probably felt like they were in the room," Boone said.

In the 2nd game of the doubleheader, not only did the Phils lose again, 4-1, falling to 55-52, but Green and reliever Ron Reed got into an argument in the dugout. Reed was the same size as Green, was a former All-Star, and had also played pro basketball, on the Detroit Pistons. (One of his teammates was future Knick star Dave DeBusschere, who had also pitched in the majors, for the Chicago White Sox -- oddly, the team with which Reed would finish his career.)

Reed had had enough of Green, and wouldn't back down. Some of the players were probably hoping that this would turn into what the Billy Martin/Reggie Jackson shoutfest at Fenway Park in 1977 didn't turn into: A player-manager fight. But Green let Reed know, in no uncertain terms, who the boss was. Not Reed.

The Phillies got the message. They went out to Chicago, and beat the Cubs in 15 innings, starting an 8-1 streak. After a lull on a homestead, they caught fire again: From August 27 to September 26, they went 20-9. Included in that was a 3-1 stretch against the Pirates that essentially knocked the defending champs out of the hunt.

The last weekend would tell the story, as the Phils went into Montreal tied with the Expos. Whoever could win 2 of the 3 would win the Division. Over 57,000 jammed the Olympic Stadium on a Friday night, and the Phils won 2-1, with Ruthven and McGraw combining to outpitch Scott Sanderson. On Saturday, the game went to the 11th inning, and Schmidt took Stan Bahnsen deep. As broadcaster Andy Musser said, "Long drive, he buried it! He buried it!"

The Phils won 6-4, and had their 4th Division title in the last 5 years. In their previous 93 seasons of play, they'd finished 1st exactly twice. It wasn't enough: They still hadn't won a Pennant since the 1950 "Whiz Kids." (The other Pennant came in 1915.)

The NL Championship Series against the Houston Astros, in their 1st postseason in 19 seasons of play, was a classic. The Phils won Game 1 3-1 at The Vet. The last 4 games all went to extra innings. The Phils had to come from behind to win Game 4 in 10 at the Astrodome, a game that featured a bad call and a tremendous argument by Green. They realized that, no matter how much they hated his guts, nobody had more guts to hate. They realized that, no matter how hard he had driven them, he had their back.

In Game 5, the Phils trailed in the 8th against Nolan Ryan, but came back to send the game to a 10th inning. Del Unswer and Maddox hit doubles in the 10th, and Ruthven came on to relieve McGraw, and the Phils had their 1st Pennant in 30 years.

Like the Phils, the Kansas City Royals had won Division titles in 1976, '77 and '78, only to lose their LCS every time, in each case to the Yankees. In 1980, they, too, got over the hump, and won the franchise's 1st Pennant after 12 seasons. Both teams had a lot to prove.

The Phillies won Games 1 and 2 at The Vet. The Royals won Game 3 at Royals Stadium (now Kauffman Stadium), and were winning Game 4, 5-1, thanks to 2 home runs by Willie Aikens, and the Series looked tied (as it would be), with the Royals still having Game 5 at home.

Then came a moment old-school managers like Dallas Green, Billy Martin, Dick Williams, et al. loved. Dickie Noles -- a 2nd-year pitcher, not quite 24 years old, and having one of the least intimidating names in the game, was facing George Brett, the AL Most Valuable Player, who had batted .390. Noles threw a brushback pitch, knocking Brett on his ass -- which he later admitted was suffering from hemorrhoids.

The Royals were furious. They shouldn't have been: They were a very dirty team, at least by 1970s baseball standards. But Noles had sent a message: We are Dallas Green's team, and we aren't going to let you win. You will have to be tougher than we are -- and you are not.

The Phillies won Game 5 in Kansas City, and hung on for a 4-1 win in Game 6 at The Vet. It was October 21, 1980, the conclusion of the 98th season of Phillies baseball. They were the last of the Original 16 teams to win their 1st World Series. (It was also the day that Kim Kardashian was born.)

Funny: In 1964, the Phillies (with Green as a pitcher) won 92 games, but didn't make the Playoffs, and are regarded as one of baseball's most spectacular failures; but in 1980, the Phillies (with Green as the manager) won 91 games, and won the World Series, and are regarded as one of the great teams in the history of the game.

Dallas Green had risen from local boy made mediocre to becoming the manager of the World Champions.

*

The 1981 season was marred by a strike that took out the middle third, and forced a split-season setup. The Phillies were in 1st place when the strike hit, and faced the 2nd-place Expos in a Division Series. The Expos won, gaining a measure of revenge. And then the Carpenters sold the Phillies, to a group led by team executive Bill Giles.

Green resigned as manager, and was hired as general manager of the Chicago Cubs. He raided the Phils, making a trade in which he obtained Bowa and a young 3rd baseman, stuck behind Schmidt. He turned him into a 2nd baseman. It was Ryne Sandberg. He also traded for Rick Sutcliffe, who won the Cy Young Award, and in 1984, the Cubs won the NL East, their 1st 1st-place finish in 39 years. But they choked in the NLCS against the San Diego Padres.
Dallas Green and Ryne Sandberg

Ironically, the Phillies did win another Pennant, in 1983, partly thanks to the shortstop Green gave up in the Sandberg trade to replace Bowa, Ivan DeJesus. The Phillies won another Pennant in 1993. Sandberg never won a Pennant, reaching the postseason again in 1989 (which Green did set up, through his rebuild of the Cubs' farm system), and retiring before the Cubs won the Wild Card in 1998. Who got the better of the trade? Think about it!

In 1987, shortly after making the deal to bring lights to Wrigley Field -- which he saw as necessary for prime-time baseball revenue, in order to save the ballpark -- in a dispute with the Tribune Company, owner of the Cubs, Green resigned. In 1989, thinking the Yankees needed Green's type of discipline, George Steinbrenner hired him as manager.

"Dallas is tough," George said. "He's outspoken. He won't back away from anyone, including me."

But that turned out to be part of the problem. They could not co-exist. Green angered the players, too. What's more, age and injuries caught up with the Yankees, and Green was fired 2/3rds of the way through the season, with a 56-65 record.

It is telling that, while Billy Martin, Bob Lemon, Gene Michael, Clyde King, Yogi Berra, Lou Piniella and Carl "Stump" Merrill, all fired as manager by George, would eventually be welcomed back into the organization in some capacity or other, Dallas Green never chose to accept another position with the Yankees. As such, he joined Ralph Houk, Bill Virdon, Dick Howser, Bucky Dent, Buck Showalter and Joe Torre. I think George and Dallas did restore their friendship. As far as I know, the only ones to carry a grudge to the grave were Howser (his) and Showalter (George's).

In 1993, the other New York team, the Mets, were a disciplinary nightmare. Owner Fred Wilpon figured he was no Steinbrenner, so maybe he could get along with Green, and Green could straighten the team out. He did, somewhat: He benched the malcontents, convinced management to get rid of them, brought up some kids who would go on to help the Mets reach the postseason in 1999 and 2000, and got them to a tie for 2nd place in 1995.

But he could only take them so far, and was fired late in the 1996 season, replaced by Bobby Valentine, who would get them to the 2000 Pennant. Green's final record as a major league manager was 454-478, for a percentage of .487.

He was 1 of 4 men, thus far, who have managed both the Yankees and the Mets. Joe Torre is now the only one still alive. The others were Casey Stengel and Yogi Berra.

*

In 1998, Ed Wade, trying to rebuild the Phillies as GM, asked Green to return to the organization. He told Wade, "I just want to help." Wade hired him as a "special adviser," and he held that post for the rest of his life.

He assisted Wade, then Pat Gillick, then Ruben Amaro Jr. as Phils GMs. He advised field managers Terry Francona, Bowa, Gary Varsho, Charlie Manuel, Sandberg and Pete Mackanin. In 2004, the 1st season in the new Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies were contenders again. In 2007, bolstered by the attack of Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, and the pitching of Cole Hamels, they won the NL East for the 1st time since the 1993 Pennant. In 2008, they won the World Series. In 2009, another Pennant came. In 2010 and 2011, they won the Division title, before finally collapsing in 2012.
The only 2 human beings ever to manage the Philadelphia Phillies
to win the World Series: Dallas Green and Charlie Manuel.
Photo taken at the ring ceremony at the 2009 home opener.
The patch was for Harry Kalas, who had just died.

Since their 1883 founding, the Philadelphia Phillies have reached postseason play 10 times with Dallas Green being involved (1976, '77, '78, '80, '81, 2007, '08, '09, '10 and '11), and only 4 times without him (1915, '50, '83 and '93).

Green was elected to the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame twice: As the manager on the Phillies' Centennial Team in 1983, and in his own right in 2006. Also in 1983, he was elected to the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame.

He has not been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but that is complicated by the fact, while the Halls for Pro Football and Basketball have the category of "Contributor," and Hockey has that of "Builder," baseball has no equivalent category, just "Player," "Manager" and "Executive." If what Green did as a manager and an executive could be combined, he might have been elected during his lifetime.

He was married for 59 years to the former Sylvia Lowe Taylor. They had 4 children: Dana, John (now a scout for the Dodgers), Kim and Douglas, and 6 grandchildren.

One John's children, Christina Taylor-Green, was a victim of the January 11, 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona that nearly killed Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Christina was only 9 years old.

"I'm supposed to be a tough sucker," Dallas said, "but I'm not very tough when it comes to this." He later said, "Baseball helped me cope."

A longtime resident of the Philadelphia suburb of West Grove, Pennsylvania, he died today, March 22, 2017, at Hahnemann University Hospital in Center City Philadelphia, from kidney disease. He was 82 years old.

He had lived long enough to be a part of a 2nd World Championship team with the Phillies, and to see the Cubs finally win a World Series.

Dallas Green was a baseball lifer. That life is now over, but it touched a lot of lives, and made them better.

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With his death, there are 8 Yankee managers still alive:

Bill Virdon, 1974-75
Gene Michael, 1981 and 1982 (nonconsecutive)
Lou Piniella, 1986-87 and 1988 (nonconsecutive)
Bucky Dent, 1989-90
Stump Merrill, 1990-91
Buck Showalter, 1992-95
Joe Torre, 1996-2007
Joe Girardi, 2008-present

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