Dallas Green gave his life to baseball, and baseball gave him a life. Today, we mourn his passing on Wednesday at the age of 82 from complications due to kidney failure and pneumonia.
His obituaries filled with glowing tributes quickly hail his leadership skills as the first manager in the over 100-year history – at the time – of the Philadelphia Phillies to guide them to a world championship in 1980 (more on that in a moment) and the note that he is one of just four managers to have skippered both the Mets and Yankees, joining a quartet that includes Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra, and Joe Torre.
But we must also note and not bury an important lead that Green’s family was struck by a national tragedy in 2011, when his 9-year-old granddaughter, Christina Taylor-Green – his son, John Green’s daughter, was one of six people killed in the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that also injured U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords.
The young girl was at a political meet-and-greet in a supermarket parking lot when a gunman savagely opened fire into the crowd, wounding 19 people, killing six.
Every family can certainly understand that this was a tragedy difficult to understand and a wound that can barely ever truly heal.
In his 2013 autobiography, “The Mouth That Roared,” Green, who became a vocal advocate for gun control, admitted, “They say time heals. Time, I don’t think, will ever heal that part of my life.”
Instead, Green used baseball as a salve, reporting to spring training with the Phillies that year as an adviser, just as he had, in one capacity or another since 1955, when he was signed out of high school by that same organization he called home for 46 of his 62 years spent in the game.
He told reporters that by coming to spring training, “I don’t see a little girl with a hole in her chest.”
Green’s playing career was, shall we politely say, not very noteworthy. The 6’5”, 210-pound pitcher was an imposing presence on the mound, but his overall record in seven seasons was 20-22, 4.26 ERA, 185 games, 46 starts, 268 strikeouts in 562.3 innings pitched, 1.50 WHIP, 4 saves.
Green later liked to joke, “I was a 20-game winner. It just took me five years to do it.”
He came up with the Phils in June of 1960, and remained with them through the ’64 season. In April of ’65, he was sold to the Washington Senators, where he stayed exactly one month, when the Nats basically said, no thanks, and returned him to the Phillies.
In July of ’66, the Mets had a need for a pitcher – they always had a need for pitchers in those days – and purchased Green from Philadelphia. In a Mets uni, wearing number 27, Green lasted less than one month, appearing in four games out of the bullpen, with no record and a 5.40 ERA. He did give up six hits in just five innings, with two of them home runs. By Aug. 10, he was dispatched back to those frustrated Phillies.
Green later became one of nine former Mets to come back and manage the team in 1993, replacing Jeff Torborg mid-season. Add Green to the list that includes: Gil Hodges, Berra, Roy McMillan, Torre, Bud Harrelson, Mike Cubbage, Bobby Valentine, and Willie Randolph.
Green’s record as a Mets skipper was also a little on the short side (229-283, .447), as he was in charge of squads that earned big paychecks – for the time – but without positive results on the field. Green managed the likes of Vince Coleman, Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Murray, Jeff Kent, Lance Johnson, Bernard Gilkey, Todd Hundley, Doc Gooden, Frank Tanana, Bret Saberhagen, Jason Isringhausen, Bobby Jones, John Franco, Jerry Dipoto, and Anthony Young. Each had their moments, but the chemistry just wasn’t right.
The manager with the intimidating presence of a John Wayne and the booming voice already had that World Series title in his pocket and the experience of working for George Steinbrenner in New York. But a title in Philadelphia didn’t help him in 1989, when he lasted less than one year as the Yankees manager. With a roster that included future Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Goose Gossage, plus All-Stars such as Don Mattingly, Al Leiter, and Dave Righetti, Green was fired in August with a record of 56-65.
At the time, Steinbrenner wanted to shake up the club by firing some of Green’s coaches. So Green challenged him by stating, “Why don’t you just fire the manager and then make all the coaching changes you want?”
We all know what happened when you challenge George Steinbrenner. Bucky Dent was soon the Yankees manager.
In fairness to Green, despite some headliners, the rest of his roster wasn’t exactly World Series caliber. He wrote lineups with Don Slaught, Steve Sax, Alvaro Espinoza, Mike Pagliarulo, Roberto Kelly, and Jesse Barfield. Steve Balboni was his DH, for pete’s sake. Deion Sanders was the cornerback in the outfield. Greg Cadaret, Andy Hawkins, Walt Terrell, Lance McCullers, and Dale Mahorcic were on the staff at various times. Even the ancient one, Tommy John, was still pitching for the Yankees.
But getting back to the more memorable moments of Green’s career, the Delaware native was released by the Phillies in 1967, but became a longtime member of their organization, managing in the minors, and became their minor league director in 1972. By ’79, the Phillies were looking for new leadership on the major league team and tabbed Green to helm a squad that had a losing record late in the year (65-67). He replaced Danny Ozark. Green finished the season 19-11 with a squad that included Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone, Garry Maddox, Tim McCarver, Larry Christenson, Dickie Noles, Ron Reed, Rawley Eastwick, and Tug McGraw.
Well, no wonder, you say. Indeed, by 1980, the Phils were on their way. Green led them to a 91-71 record, first place and all the way to the big trophy and a parade down Broad Street.
After the 1981 season, the Cubs romanced Green into joining Chicago as their GM, and by 1984, he had the Cubbies in the NLCS, only to lose to San Diego due to some quirky errors.
In 1998, Green returned to the Phillies organization as an adviser.
Green is survived by his wife, Sylvia, his daughters, Kim Green and Dana Ressler, his sons, John, and Douglas, and five grandchildren.
John Green is a supervisor of amateur scouts on the East Coast for the Los Angeles Dodgers.