Dallas Green was blunt. He was tough. And he was passionate. He was Philadelphia.
Green, who guided the Phillies to the first World Series title in franchise history, died Wednesday at age 82. But Green didn’t guide the Phillies to the World Series title as much as he drove them to it.
The team Green took over in 1979 with a little less than one quarter of the season remaining had won three straight National League East titles, but hadn’t reached the World Series. Despite adding superstar Pete Rose through free agency, the Phillies were below .500 when Green took over.
Success wasn’t instantaneous. The Phillies finished fourth in the NL East in 1979 and were traveling a bumpy road toward another finish out of the playoffs in 1980 under Green’s stern leadership. Many of the veterans blanched at Green’s willingness to criticize them, both in the private confines of the locker room and the public forum of newspapers and other media. Green’s tactics generated scorn from, among others, fiery shortstop Larry Bowa, slugger Greg Luzinski and superb center fielder Garry Maddox.
But Green wasn’t at the helm to make friends. He ripped players for acting “too cool.” He implied they cared more about themselves than the team. He expressed concerns that they would quit.
The 6-foot-5-inch Green didn’t simply yell. He bellowed. His booming voice was impossible to confuse with anyone else’s voice. His messages were delivered loud and clear.
The players received the message. Or, as has been speculated, perhaps they rallied around the idea that they had a common enemy: Green.
They wanted to prove their manager wrong. They wanted to show him that they hadn’t quit. They wanted to show Green that they were winners.
The Phillies, of course won started a run in mid-August that elevated them to the NL East title. They won an epic 5-game National League Championship Series with the Astros, with the final four games of the series going extra innings.
There were so many heroes in the NLCS. Even if we limit our memories to Game 5, there are a plethora of heroes. The Phillies entered the eighth inning trailing, 5-2, with great Nolan Ryan on the mound for the Astros. After the Phillies loaded the bases and pushed one run across, chasing Ryan from the game, the Astros appeared to find a way out of the inning, recording two outs while allowing just one more run. But Del Unser’s 2-out single tied the game and Manny Trillo’s triple gave the Phillies a 7-5 lead.
Maddox flied out to center field to end the rally, but, after Tug McGraw coughed up the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, Maddox doubled home Unser with the winning run and series-clinching run in the 10th inning. Veteran starter Dick Ruthven retired the side in relief in the 10th inning to secure a trip to the World Series.
Trillo, who batted .381 and cut down a runner at the plate with a relay throw while playing his customary excellent defense, was named MVP. Luzinski’s 2-run home run in the sixth inning of Game 1 gave the Phillies the lead in a crucial 3-1 victory. Bowa batted .316. Rose batted .400. Pinch-hitters Unser and Greg Gross were a combined 5 for 9.
There were more heroes during the World Series triumph over the Royals. After a terrible NLCS, Mike Schmidt was named MVP of the World Series. McGraw earned a win and two saves. Catcher Bob Boone batted .412. Bowa batted .375. Unser went 3 for 6 with two RBI and scored two runs. Ace Steve Carlton continued his usual excellence while winning both of his starts.
Green wasn’t popular among his players, but he brought out the best in them. And that’s a manager’s job.
He also brought the Phillies their first championship in their 97-year existence. If it weren’t for the 2008 Phillies, we would still be clinging to the 1980 team as our one shining moment on the baseball stage. And we owe Green a huge debt for his huge role in making that happen.
Green was a baseball giant, literally and figuratively. He didn’t make much of an impact as a player after being drafted out of Delaware by his beloved Phillies. But he spent 62 years in professional baseball, 46 of them with the Phillies. He was a player, scout, farm director, manager and adviser with the Phillies.
After leaving the Phillies to become general manager of the Cubs, he reversed their fortunes and helped them win a division title. An important step in Green’s turnaround of the Cubs was stealing Bowa and future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg from the Phillies in exchange for shortstop Ivan DeJesus.
Green’s style never changed. He battled with Cubs ownership. He fought with tradition to get lights in Wrigley Field, even threatening to play games in another location. He stood up to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, which made his tenure as Yankees manager a short one.
My lone reporter experience with Green was in 1990 at a charity golf tournament. The setting was unusual because, as Green told me that day, he doesn’t play golf. He was there to help raise money for the medical expenses of his former Phillies teammate Chris Short, who was in a coma from which he would never recover. Green’s presence alone tells you a lot about the man.
Because Green wasn’t playing golf, we had time for a relaxed conversation about his thoughts on baseball-related issues and what he’d like to accomplish during the rest of his career (he was intrigued by running an expansion franchise). We were outside, but Green used his “inside” voice. It was a voice that commanded attention, but it wasn’t booming the way it would be in a baseball setting.
In hindsight, because I was in “reporter” mode, I don’t think I ever thanked Green for the joy he brought me by pushing the Phillies to win the 1980 World Series. And I was a spoiled Phillies fan. They had been winners for most of the years I had followed the team. There were generations of Phillies fans who had suffered through decades of losing seasons. They had suffered through the agony of 1964.
Green was a pitcher on the 1964 team that infamously blew a 6½-game lead with 12 games to go. He gave up five runs in relief during a 14-8 loss to the Milwaukee Braves that knocked the Phillies out of first place on Sept. 27, 1964.
Having played for the Phillies and worked in the organization, when the Phillies won the franchise’s first championship, Green knew how much it meant to the fans.
The World Series title also meant a lot to the players. For many of them, including Hall of Famers Schmidt and Carlton, it was their only World Series title.
Although many Phillies resented Green during his tenure as manager, they respected him and, as time passed by, even revered him. He made them better. He made them champions.
Phillies fans respected and revered Dallas Green the manager.
Those who knew him best respected and revered Dallas Green the man.
We lost a great man and a great manager on Wednesday.