The news that Dallas Green died was a shocker, and not just because we had no idea he was even ill. The former Conrad High and University of Delaware star seemed indestructible, a larger-than-life character who filled up any room he walked into and dominated any conversation of which he was a part.
Green had an incredibly diverse career in baseball, even though as a big-league pitcher he was mediocre, with a lifetime record of 20-22. But as a manager and front-office man he was as good as they came, and his career stops included big-market teams like the New York Yankees, New York Mets and Chicago Cubs.
But if you mention Dallas Green’s name to anyone in the Delaware Valley, their first and most vivid memory is when he was manager of the 1980 Phillies team that won the franchise’s first World Series championship.
And Green wasn’t just some guy who sat in the dugout while his star-filled team cruised to the World Series. He was a leader in every sense of the word, and many of those words were loud and profane. Green was a dominating and intimidating figure, with his 6-foot-5 frame, thick, wavy, steel-gray hair and especially his voice – Green’s booming voice even cowed Hall-of-Famers like Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Pete Rose (yeah, yeah, we know Rose isn’t actually in the Hall of Fame, but nobody can say he isn’t a Hall-of-Fame player).
What makes that 1980 season even more memorable is the fact that Green never planned or even wanted to be manager of the Phillies. Late in the 1979 season, the Phillies fired long-time manager Danny Ozark, whose laid-back approach was good enough to get to the playoffs every year, but failed to earn that elusive World Series trophy. Green, the Phillies’ director of minor leagues who was anything but laid back, was picked to replace Ozark and history was made.
But not right away, and the Phils still foundered through the first half of the 1980 season. And that set the stage for a clubhouse tirade by Green that many say really sparked that magical 1980 season. The talented Phillies were once again underachieving, and in an infamous rant between games of a double-header in Pittsburgh, a diatribe that was heard clearly by media members outside of the clubhouse, Green ripped into his team for lollygagging (which, of course, made them lollygaggers) and Green’s loud and profane outburst echoed off the walls of Three Rivers Stadium (and we can only imagine the uproar that would have caused if Twitter and Facebook were around then).
Maybe it was just a coincidence, but the Phils took off from there and they never landed until that magical moment when Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson to clinch the World Series championship.
A year later, Green left the Phillies to become general manager of the Cubs, and that’s when he fleeced his old team in a trade for future Hall-of-Fame second baseman Ryne Sandburg in exchange for journeyman shortstop Ivan DeJesus. After that he would manage the Yankees, and there’s no more prestigious job in baseball, maybe all of sports. He also managed the Mets for three seasons.
Still, through it all, Green bled Phillies red and he came back home in 1998 as a special advisor to the club and he stayed with the Phils until the day he died.
Green also bled Delaware blue and gold. Despite all of his success and fame, Dallas Green remained a home boy at heart. He strongly supported Delaware athletics and even had season tickets to Delaware football games, where you couldn’t miss his towering presence in a box near the 50-yard line. The big kid from Newport went on to fame and fortune, but he never forgot his roots.