Dallas Green prided himself on his toughness, aware that his gruff manner and booming voice were the trademarks that made him a World Series-winning manager and a six-decade baseball lifer. Yet he also had a soft, vulnerable side that he made no effort to hide after the shooting death of his nine-year-old granddaughter six years ago.
Green, whose colorful and successful career was marked by tumultuous terms as manager of both the Yankees and Mets, died Wednesday at Philadelphia’s Hahnemann Hospital of complications related to kidney failure and pneumonia, his family told the CBS television station in Philadelphia. He was 82.
His peak baseball moment occurred in 1980, when he became the first manager to lead the Phillies to the world championship. Later, as general manager of the Cubs, he traded for future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg and drafted another Cooperstown-bound player, Greg Maddux. Green also drafted Joe Girardi, who would go on to become one of his successors as Yankees manager.
“I knew him from my days with the Cubs,” Girardi said. “Obviously, that’s very sad because he was a great baseball man and he’ll be missed.”
Green did not last a full season working for George Steinbrenner in 1989, having famously called him “Manager George” and refused to stand for the owner’s firing of his coaches. He was hired by the Mets in 1993 to, as he said at the time, “clean up what we all perceive is a mess,” but was fired three years later without having turned the franchise into a winner.
Through it all, and afterward as a senior adviser for the Phillies, the imposing 6-5 figure maintained his robust, blunt personality. That changed in 2011, when civic-minded nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green was shot and killed while attending an appearance by Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the apparent target of the gunman’s attack.
Speaking to reporters two months later at spring training, with tears falling below his sunglasses, Green said, “You know, I’m supposed to be a tough sucker. I’m not really tough when it comes to this.” He added that getting back to work would be his therapy.
The Mets, in a statement yesterday, said, “Dallas was pure and simple a ‘true baseball man.’ He was one of four men (Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra and Joe Torre) to manage both the Mets and Yankees. We extend our condolences to his wife, Sylvia and the rest of the Green family.” Manager Terry Collins said the passing was “very sad news,” and recalled getting to know Green very well after the 1994 strike. “He used to call me and we talked almost 25-30 minutes every day about stuff,” Collins said.
Phillies chairman David Montgomery, who had known Green for 46 years, said in a statement, “He was a big man with a big heart and a bigger-than-life personality . . . All of us at the Phillies had tremendous respect for Dallas as a baseball man and a friend.”
Dallas Green was born Aug. 4, 1934 in Newport, Delaware. He was signed as a pitcher by the Phillies in 1955 and spent parts of eight seasons in the major leagues, including 1966 with the Mets. Hampered by arm trouble, he had a 20-22 record and was perhaps best known for surrendering Jimmy Piersall’s 100th career home run and watching Piersall, then a Met, run the bases backward.
Green had a much higher profile as a manager. He was unafraid to lock horns with and criticize players. Once, when a reporter asked after a game if a Mets pitcher had experienced trouble with location, Green said, “I don’t know. Most of his pitches landed in the outfield.”
His humor and humanity also often surfaced, such as when he and Sylvia, his wife of 59 years, hosted a few reporters at their 60-acre farm in West Grove, Pa. during the 1994 strike. “It’s a good escape,” he said that day. “When I was fired [by the Yankees and Cubs], I came home disillusioned as hell. But on the farm, I just flushed it out. It’s my workout. My health club is out here, digging another hole for Sylvia to put another tree in.”
Along with his wife, he is survived by sons John and Douglas, daughters Dana Ressler and Kim, and five grandchildren.