Dallas Green: "The Gestapo"

Dallas Green holds the distinction of being the only manager to guide the Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series Championship in the last twenty four years. Yet his players famously wrangled with him over his rough manner and tough approach in handling his club. When Dallas replaced Danny Ozark he did not hold back when first meeting his players, "The Phillies didn't fire Danny Ozark. You guys fired Danny Ozark", he told them. And the Dallas Green era was born.

"We, Not I" - The message on a sign in the Phillies' Clearwater clubhouse in 1980.

If Ozark was anything, it was patient. Dallas Green was the exact opposite. He was attitude and fire and it was the way he was going to deal with his Phillies club like it or not. He seemed to immediately sense that the Phillies of 1979 needed to be whipped into shape and with a sharp whip. They were of course, a bunch of guys who believed they were better than everyone else…including their own teammates at times. They marched to the beat of their own drum and did exactly what they wanted to do. Problem was Dallas Green was the same kind of guy. There would be an instant clash of personalities. The amazingly talented group of Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski were in need of some guidance, a push to get them to reach their full potential.

Green was also someone that General Manager Paul "The Pope" Owens had seen as a kid playing in Salt Lake City, Utah and Owens always remembered Green's intensity. Years later Green was a rookie with the Phillies at the same time Owens became a Phillies scout. But Green would not do well under Gene Mauch as his manager and he stalled as a player. In a particularly painful memory of his days with Mauch, Green recalled a game in which he pitched horribly and Mauch came out to the mound. "You're going back to Little Rock" he said to the pitcher, which was the Phillies triple a club at that time. Green took this doubly hard, especially since his father was dying of cancer at the time. Green would later say he thought that was what finally killed his father's strength to battle his illness when two weeks later he would pass away.

Green's playing days would end after only two years, but Paul Owens immediately asked Green if he wanted to join him. First Owens wanted Green to manage in the minors, an idea Green wasn't really into. Green would end up doing well as a minor league manager but his temperament made him better suited for player development and scouting. Ten years would go by before Dallas Green would take the job that would lead him into one of the greatest moments in Phillies history if not the greatest sports moment in Philadelphia's history.

When Paul Owens first hired Dallas Green to manage in the minors he was in the midst of revamping the entire Phillies system and making decisions that would alter the organization dramatically. There are several things that created the Phillies success at that time. First of all the Carpenter family who owned the Phillies were not afraid to spend money on players. If only we had such ownership today. But I digress. Owens saw how willing to spend to achieve success the Carpenters were and he ran an idea by Bob Carpenter, pointing out that all of the teams who consistently beat the Phillies were clubs with their own minor league complex. Carpenter quickly saw the light and asked how much it would cost to build one. Three years later the Phillies farm system was the best in baseball. In the years ahead, some of the best Phillies ever would come through that system including Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt, key players in the club that Dallas Green would guide to a World Series title.

Dallas acted a bit like a football coach taking a page out of the book of Dick Vermeil, the one time Eagles coach, who told Green that sometimes you had to get down and dirty with your players after Dallas told him of his bizarre dive into the mud on the first day of spring training his first year as manager, and in front of the players. Green was trying to make some kind of statement, and in a way, it was a moment symbolic of the way Dallas Green would manage his ball club. It was gonna be filthy. No prima donnas allowed. Dallas Green wanted to manage the Phillies with the emotional temperature of a football coach and to get them to respond likewise. It would not be far fetched to say that Larry Bowa probably had hoped to do the same thing with his Phillies clubs and it is unfortunate that the results simply would not be the same.

The infamous sign that Green hung in Clearwater - "We, Not I" - would especially ruffle Bowa's feathers. "When do the (bleeping) pom-pom girls get here?" he would ask indignantly. Bowa's issues with Green would actually become more public than anyone else's on the club. Two peas in a pod perhaps? It should be said though that the guidance of someone they truly trusted and respected, Paul Owens, played a major part in their success also. When he ripped into them it resonated. With Green it was different and certainly the players were not as responsive to his attitude. The parallels come up again with Larry Bowa when you think of Green's first day and how he came into the clubhouse and introduced his authority and intentions, much the way Bowa would do over twenty years later.

If 1979 was all about injuries, then 1980 was all about recovery and the Phillies believed that they could come out on top even though most sports publications were picking them to finish low in the division. Sports Illustrated picked them to finish fourth. But there was no denying the talent of that club. Schmidt was now one of the best players in baseball. Bowa and Gary Maddox wanted to stick around. And Luzinski was in much better shape than he had ever been before. And of course, there was Pete Rose; no explanation needed. But Green would be criticized for putting more faith in veterans and not enough into the younger players. Green felt strongly about this though and mainly used the younger guys to motivate the older players. The criticism of his way of handling his ball club was really just beginning.

The Phillies would show up back home to prepare for the regular season and when entering the clubhouse were given sheets of paper which contained rules for them. Rules decided on by Dallas Green. The players were appalled by what they read. There was a no jeans rule unless they were designer ones (that's my favorite). Players could not leave the clubhouse until the game was finished. Players who acted unprofessionally would be fined. The team was disgusted by what they perceived as Dallas treating them like children. But Dallas would defend his beliefs. "If all you're gonna be is comfortable just to suit your own personality instead of thinking about the team, we're not gonna get anywhere". It is truly unimaginable to me to envision a manager getting away with these kinds of tactics with the Phillies of today. The money they now earn seems to really put them in charge and managers who show this kind of passion for winning and discipline will be fired. Obviously.

In September of that year a real explosion happened that involved several Phillies. But it was shortstop Larry Bowa's day above all else. On a radio program Bowa hosted back then, he would blast Dallas saying, "He is trying to shake things up (with the lineup) but he is also talking out of both sides of his mouth". The veterans were unhappy with Green benching catcher Bob Boone and Luzinski for some of the younger players, something he did perhaps to get the attention of the veterans. But the plan was backfiring on Green and his club was turning more and more against him as were the fans. The problems between Green and Bowa seemed to have no end in sight. Bowa would even take to calling Green "The Gestapo". Green refused to keep battling back and forth with Bowa but the Phillies shortstop was never one to back down and was not going to start with Green. Green was growing tired and felt like he wanted to quit.

In October, the Phillies led the NLCS and it looked like they stood a chance against their opponent, the Houston Astros. The Phillies would of course be reminded of 1964 as every person who has played for the Phillies knows. Pete Rose had all the confidence in the world though. "We're better than those Phillies teams were", he boldly stated. But when Houston was ahead two to nothing it didn't look good and the Phillies felt deflated. The Phillies would go on to battle back, though not without a fight from the Astros and some nail biting for the fans. The Phillies would go on to the World Series despite all of the turmoil within that club. It was Curt Schilling who recently said "Chemistry does not create winning, winning creates chemistry". That was a theory the 1980 Phillies would probably have told you then.

The three games they beat Houston were absolutely thrilling but game four was a huge disappointment. Steve Carlton was pitching on only three days rest and the Phillies bats were kept quiet that night. In game five, the Phillies took the series after the club came to life and fed off of each other's desire and confidence. The Phillies won the pennant and were finally in a World Series again. The World Series would not be won based on pure talent. There was a drive within those players and within Dallas Green that lit a fire under them that no one could extinguish. The unforgettable images of Pete Rose recovering a ball that catcher Bob Boone had nervously bobbled to make a crucial out. Then, that moment, etched in our minds when Tug struck out Willie Wilson and outstretched his arms above his head is one for the ages. There was that other image too of course. It is the one of Paul Owens openly crying in front of the camera between Dallas Green and Bob Carpenter. Perhaps no one had wanted it more than Owens. In the parade that followed the World Series win, Dallas Green recognized some of the doctors that had operated on some of the Phillies injured, emotionally saluting them as they stood along the parade route. It was an electric moment of joy and celebration when the Phillies and Dallas Green understood what that championship meant to the city of Philadelphia. The joy for them would not last though and Dallas Green would be back to facing the same problems the following year and in the years he remained as the Phillies manager.

Though the Phillies had a good start in 1981 things would go wrong in the second half of the season when the Montreal Expos would dominate the National League. Also putting a damper on the spirit of the team and Phillies fans was the trade of Greg Luzinski to the Chicago White Sox. That year would also see Green throw another obscenity filled fit in the clubhouse, but this time, it fell on deaf ears. It would also be the final season for Bob Boone. The team that went to the World Series and won was slowly being disassembled. And the skipper was not sure after that season that he wanted to return. When Ruly Carpenter sold the team to Bill Giles, Green knew he wanted to jump ship, as Giles had never been one of his favorite people. Dallas Green would be replaced midway through the 1983 season. You could say that part of what began to go wrong after 1980 was the growing use of free agency. The Phillies farm system had once been incredibly strong but free agency began to completely transform the game and the Phillies.

As Dallas Green accepted his new job with the Cubs, players such as Larry Bowa would comment on his departure. Bowa would say that Green's main drawback as a manager was griping about the players in the press as opposed to coming to them one on one. His gruff and intense style of managing seemed to do some good; if nothing else, the anger that the players felt for Green might have motivated them to play harder. But they were such an individualistic group that you really can't overstate the fact that they played for themselves and they played because they lived and loved the game of baseball. The same can be said for Dallas Green. No matter what he did or didn't do right, he will always be remembered for that World Series and it will always mean something in this town. Today, Green remains a part of the Phillies organization as Senior Advisor to General Manager Ed Wade. I heard someone actually suggest (Probably jokingly) that Green should return as manager and really kick these players into high gear. To that I say, leave the man in peace. Doing that once was enough. And for that, we should thank him.

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