While his managerial career by the numbers here- 299 Regular Season and 16 Post Season games – was but a blip on the franchise radar, Dallas Green‘s (8/4/34 – 3/22/17) contribution to the Philadelphia Phillies, and it’s long suffering Phans, was incalculable.
“The Phillies didn’t fire Danny Ozark,you guys did.”
As a single guy in his 20’s, living on his own in Center City and yet to meet my future life partner, I was able to indulge in my obsession with the Phillies instilled in me by my sports loving parents. It was an easy ride down to the Vet where I anguished over some high priced, highly touted ballplayers, not living up to their potential under the mild-mannered Danny Ozark.
That changed when in late August 1979, a plain speaking, no nonsense Delaware native named Dallas Green, was hired to take over on an “interim basis”. The quote above from the first day he was in the locker room set the tone for the discipline he was brought in to instill in the players. “I’m a screamer, a yeller, and a cusser.” he said. “I never hold back.”
As already an “old school” baseball guy because of the values my father taught me that held true in life and sport, I appreciated what he was bringing to a team I saw as not playing the game the “right way”, and taking their talent for granted as if someone was going to hand them a title.
“Any players acting unprofessionally, or embarrassing me or the club, will be fined at my discretion,”
This was found at each player’s locker to start the 1980 season, and though the players often bristled at this approach, it was what they needed to bond together and play as a team.
Then on August 10th, in the tirade heard across the state – though in the pre-internet days we had to read about it the next morning – Dallas really let the team have it after a listless 7-1 loss in the 1st game of an extinct species known as a twi-nite double header in Pittsburgh.
“This bleeping game isn’t easy,” Green bellowed. “It’s tough, especially when you have injuries. But you guys (have) got your bleeping heads down.
“You’ve gotta stop being so bleeping cool. Get that through your bleeping heads. If you don’t, you’ll get so bleeping buried, it ain’t gonna be funny.”
Though they lost the next game and still were not happy about being chewed out, something clicked soon after and the Phillies, who were in third place in the NL East, six games behind both the Pirates and Expos, finally saw the results of all Dallas’ efforts and in the last day of the season passed the Expos to move on to, IMHO, one of the best NLCS of all time against the Houston Astros. The rest is history.
No Phillies Phan alive then can forget the scenes on the field and in the clubhouse that October night in 1980 after the Phillies clinched the series 4 games to 2 over the Kansas City Royals. The memories of that night – my future wife and I were already living together not far from Broad and Pine Streets and were literally dancing in the streets – and the Parade to come, while a bit sepia toned with age, live on with the also special but crisper ones of 1993 and 2008.
Dallas left after the ’81 season, but he would come back to the club in 1998 as Special Assistant to the GM and has been with the team since.
“Baseball helped me cope. You sink yourself into your work.”
While he blended into the background for most of his time here, my latest lasting memory of Dallas unfortunately came at a time of tragedy for his family. His granddaughter, Christina was killed in the same January 11th 2011 attack in Arizona that injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. It was a glimpse into the man as well as the baseball lifer that inspired everyone who saw how he reacted, emotional yet studied, to find a way to live and move on from unspeakable events.
“I can’t be somebody I’m not.”
Honesty, Integrity, Steadiness, Straightforwardness, these are all qualities I admire in people – especially those in the public eye – and Dallas Green embodied all those things and more. Boy do we need those qualities in the Cult of Personalities that dominate our world today.