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Dallas Green, first Phillies manager to win the World Series, dies at 82

Dallas Green, 82, the bearish, blustering, boom box-throated manager who in 1980 whipped a talented but complacent Phillies team to the franchise's first world championship, died Wednesday, a team official confirmed.

Manager Dallas Green hugs one of his players after the 1980 Phillies won the World Series championship at Veterans Stadium.
Manager Dallas Green hugs one of his players after the 1980 Phillies won the World Series championship at Veterans Stadium.Read moreSTAFF FILE PHOTO

Dallas Green, 82, the bearish, blustering, boom box-throated manager who in 1980 whipped a talented but complacent Phillies team to the franchise's first world championship, died Wednesday, a team official confirmed.

Details of his passing were not immediately available, but Mr. Green, a resident of West Grove, had been suffering from kidney disease and had been in declining health for several months.

"We mourn the passing of Dallas Green," read a statement from the Phillies. "The Phillies have lost a great man and wonderful friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Mr. Green spent most of his long baseball career with a Phillies organization that signed him as a Delaware high schooler in 1955. Over the subsequent 61 years, with notable interruptions in New York and Chicago, he would pitch, coach, manage, scout, and fill a number of front-office positions for the team.

A commanding physical presence at 6-foot-5, with a thick mane of silver hair and a voice that could penetrate concrete walls, Mr. Green seemed born to lead.

As a spot starter and reliever with the Phillies, Mets, and Senators, he was a hard-throwing righthander who never mastered his control or his temper. Mr. Green compiled a 20-22 record and a 4.26 ERA in his playing career from 1960 to 1967.

"I was a 20-game winner," he liked to say. "It just took me five years to do it."

Before that career ended, he was a player/coach in the Phillies system. He coached and managed in their minor leagues until 1972, when owner Ruly Carpenter made him director of the team's farm system.

For the rest of that decade, Mr. Green, a favored protege of general manager Paul Owens, oversaw drafts that produced what was then the greatest era in club history. With a nucleus of homegrown players, those Phillies appeared in six postseasons from 1976 to 1983, winning five National League East titles and the first World Series in their 97-year history.

With that championship 1980 team, Mr. Green earned an indelible spot in franchise history.

Manager Danny Ozark was fired in late August 1979 as the three-time defending NL East champions, led by future Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton, stumbled to a fourth-place finish. Though officially an interim replacement, Mr. Green was given a mandate to bring discipline, cohesion, and passion to a clubhouse marked by the aloof independence of its veteran core.

"The Phillies didn't fire Danny Ozark," Mr. Green told his players in his first day on the job, "you guys did."

A widely unpopular choice among players, Mr. Green often barked at them in the dugout, the clubhouse, and in the papers. A team used to Ozark's hands-off approach bristled at the new manager's in-your-face style.

"I'm a screamer, a yeller, and a cusser." he said. "I never hold back."

He brought up rookies to challenge veterans for playing time. He established a dress code and curfew, banned drinking on team flights, and restricted clubhouse card games.

"Any players acting unprofessionally, or embarrassing me or the club, will be fined at my discretion," read a rule sheet the Phillies found at their Veterans Stadium lockers on opening day in 1980.

Players scoffed. Carlton refused to even read the manager's regulations. Shortstop Larry Bowa complained they were being treated like high-schoolers.

"We hated him," catcher Bob Boone said. "He was driving us crazy. But it was a relationship that worked."

For much of the season, the back-and-forth between the '80 Phils and their manager produced newspaper headlines and some memorable explosions but fewer-than-expected victories. Then in September, something clicked.

After months of scuffling, Mr. Green's Phillies caught fire. They clinched the division on a wild final weekend in Montreal, captured their first pennant since 1950 in a memorably taut NL Championship Series with Houston, then defeated Kansas City in an almost anticlimactic six-game World Series.

"We challenged them every day," a champagne-soaked Mr. Green roared amid the Veterans Stadium championship celebration. "We wouldn't let them slip. If my coaching staff saw something wrong, they jumped. And if they didn't jump far enough, I jumped. We kept the pressure on the players from the time spring training started."

Mr. Green stepped down after the strike-shortened '81 season and became general manager of the Chicago Cubs. Engineering the acquisition of several Phillies - including, in a historically lopsided trade, a minor-league second baseman named Ryne Sandberg - Mr. Green helped Chicago win its first division title in 1984.

The Sporting News named him its executive of the year, but by 1987 Mr. Green tired of battling with Cubs executives and stepped down. Two years later, George Steinbrenner hired him as New York Yankees manager. Predictably, the two Type A personalities clashed and Mr. Green's Bronx tenure lasted only 121 games.

In the mid-1990s, he spent four losing seasons in the New York Mets dugout before returning for good to the place he considered home, the Phillies front office. His overall managerial record was 454-478.

Over the years, Mr. Green had a knack for being present at some of baseball's most unusual moments.

In October 1956, he was a spectator at Yankee Stadium when New York pitcher Don Larsen threw what is still the only perfect game in World Series history. Mr. Green surrendered Jimmy Piersall's 100th home run on June 23, 1963, a milestone the emotionally troubled Mets outfielder famously celebrated by circling the bases backward.

Then in September 1964, Phils manager Gene Mauch, who had demoted him earlier that season, recalled the big pitcher just in time for him to witness the greatest collapse in baseball history.

In the 1980s, Mr. Green purchased a 60-acre property in southern Chester County and actively farmed it.

"I like to see things grow," he said in 1993. "I like to ride around on the tractor and cut grass. [His wife] Sylvia's taken about a thousand courses at Longwood [Gardens]. She takes the classes, I dig the holes. This is my hideout from baseball."

In 2011, he was devastated by the tragic death of a granddaughter. That Jan. 11, Christina, the 9-year-old daughter of his son, John, a Dodgers scouting supervisor, was one of six people killed in the Arizona shooting that critically injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

"Baseball helped me cope," Mr. Green said later. "You sink yourself into your work."

A baseball lifer whose career was spent in some of America's largest cities, George Dallas Green was born into a working-class family in tiny Newport, Del., on Aug. 4, 1934.

He grew up a fan of the perennially overmatched Phillies, sometimes traveling to Philadelphia to watch them play. The tall youngster was a baseball, basketball, and football star at Conrad High. His long limbs led friends to nickname him Spider.

Mr. Green earned a baseball scholarship to the University of Delaware and was a star rightfielder and pitcher. As a junior in 1955, he compiled a 6-0 record and an 0.88 ERA. Those numbers, plus his fastball and size, attracted dozens of big-league scouts. One was Jocko Collins, who signed him to a Phillies contract.

Erratic but at times overpowering, he bounced up and down their system until being summoned to Philadelphia midway through the 1960 season. He allowed six runs and walked four in a 52/3-inning debut at San Francisco. In his third start, he three-hit the Dodgers for one of his two career shutouts.

He was shifted to the bullpen after seven starts and Green finished 1960 with a 3-6 mark and a 4.06 ERA in 1082/3 innings.

Part of Mauch's season-opening rotation in 1961, Mr. Green shut out the Giants in his first start. But control problems landed him back in the bullpen and he won just two games for a team that finished 60 games under .500.

His best season would be 1963, when he went 7-5 with a 3.23 ERA. Demoted to the minors in 1964, he rejoined the first-place team in time to watch it lose 10 games in succession with 12 to play and squander all of its 61/2-game lead.

"We had a pretty good team and it looked like we were going to wrap it up," Mr. Green remembered. "It really hurt me. I just felt crushed."

Beset by injuries and inconsistency, Mr. Green spent his final three years bouncing between the majors and minors with the Phillies and, briefly, the Washington Senators and Mets.

Close to the Carpenters, his fellow Delaware residents who owned the team, he was made a player/pitching coach at double-A Reading in 1966. The Phillies called him up briefly in June 1967, but his playing career ended with the season.

Although his ambition was to become a general manager, Mr. Green was advised by Owens to become a manager first. He did and won a league title at one minor-league stop. Owens, the farm director who became his mentor, soon named him his assistant. And when the older man became the Phillies GM in 1972, he promoted Mr. Green to farm director.

At the major-league level, the talent-laden Phillies had followed three straight division titles in 1976-78 with three demoralizing NLCS failures.

"We had the label of choke artists," Bowa said.

When, despite the ballyhooed signing of free agent Pete Rose, it became clear the Phillies weren't going to win a fourth straight NL East title in 1979, Owens fired the laid-back Ozark. Looking for another approach, he hired the more demanding Mr. Green.

"There was the impression that there was a country club atmosphere and he would come in with his whip," Boone said. "The players resented it. Ozark put out the lineup the first day of the season and left us alone. We policed ourselves."

Whatever the impetus, the disappointing '79 Phillies won 19 of their final 30 games under Mr. Green. Reluctantly, at the prodding of Owens and Carpenter, he stayed as manager in 1980.

Mr. Green's already testy relationship with players such as Carlton, Boone, and Garry Maddox worsened when the manager distributed his new rules the following April.

"This isn't a country club," he explained. "We've proven in the past we can win. We've also proven that we haven't won the whole ball of wax. The only indication I can come up with . . . is the character of the team."

The '80 Phils were a mediocre 55-51 and in third place when they dropped the opener of an Aug. 10 doubleheader at Pittsburgh. Mr. Green was waiting for them in Three Rivers Stadium's visitors locker room. Singling out individual failings, Mr. Green gave a tirade so loud that writers waiting outside were able to transcribe it.

"They probably felt like they were in the room," Boone recalled.

His message didn't get through immediately. In fact, in the midst of a second-game loss to the Pirates, Mr. Green and cantankerous reliever Ron Reed had to be separated during a loud dugout dispute.

Finally, in late September, the Phillies got hot and, with Mr. Green remaining in the background, went on a run that on Oct. 21, before policemen on horseback and a delirious home crowd, culminated with the 97-year-old franchise's first championship.

His Phillies won the first-half division title in strike-marred 1981 but collapsed in the second half and lost to Montreal in a divisional playoff. When the Carpenters sold the team after that season, Mr. Green left to become Chicago's general manager and executive vice president.

As he'd done in Philadelphia, Mr. Green immediately shook things up, trading popular Cubs players, ignoring team traditions, and promising to install lights at Wrigley Field. If fans and players bristled, all was forgiven when the Cubs took the NL East in 1984, although their first postseason appearance in 39 years ended with a loss to San Diego.

There would be only one more winning season in Chicago, and in 1987, weary of a front-office feud with ownership, Mr. Green resigned.

In 1989, Steinbrenner, attracted in part by Mr. Green's commanding reputation as a disciplinarian, surprised baseball by hiring him to manage the Yankees.

"I'm sick of watching superior Yankee teams throw away pennants because they lack discipline," Steinbrenner said. "Dallas is tough. He's outspoken. He won't back away from anyone, including me."

But in August, with his big-salaried team nine games under .500, Steinbrenner fired him. Mr. Green would resurface in New York four years later as Mets manager. The Mets never contended in his four seasons there, and in August 1996, a week after he'd told reporters young pitchers Paul Wilson and Jason Isringhausen didn't belong in the majors, he was fired again.

At 62, Mr. Green saw his career in uniform come to an end. But in 1998, Phillies GM Ed Wade brought him back to Philadelphia as a special adviser, a position he held until his death.

"I can still remember when we sat down and talked that day," Wade told the Wilmington News-Journal in 2015. "All he said was, 'I just want to help.' Here he is just living his experience. The whole organization is better because of it."

Mr. Green was added to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 2006. Two years earlier, the local Baseball Writers Association of American established the Dallas Green Special Achievement Award for "meritorious service" by a player or member of the organization.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years; four children, Dana Ressler, John, Kim, and Douglas; and five grandchildren.

Mr. Green's funeral service will be private.

"Dallas was what Philly is all about: toughness, honesty, and fairness," said Bowa, a longtime Phillies coach. "Without Dallas, the Phillies would not have won the World Series in 1980. I wish all of our current players would have had the opportunity to meet Dallas. He was a huge impact on my career as a player, manager, and coach. He will truly be missed."