The blog for Mets fans
who like to read

ABOUT US

Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

Got something to say? Leave a comment, or email us at faithandfear@gmail.com. (Sorry, but we have no interest in ads, sponsored content or guest posts.)

Need our RSS feed? It's here.

Visit our Facebook page, or drop by the personal pages for Greg and Jason.

Or follow us on Twitter: Here's Greg, and here's Jason.

Last of the Old School

Dallas Green, who managed the Mets through a lean period of fizzled prospects and bad uniforms, died yesterday at 82.

It’s funny paying tribute to someone whose baseball resume lists more accomplishments for other franchises. Green was most definitely “ours,” a Mets pitcher in the summer of 1966 (albeit for five undistinguished innings) and then a manager for nearly four seasons from May 1993 through August 1996. Yet he’ll be primarily remembered for his work on the field for the Phillies and off the field for the Cubs.

Green managed 512 games for the Mets, which is more than I would have guessed without a peek at the stats. That’s more than he managed for the Phils and Yankees combined. But he won a World Series title in Philadelphia — the first for that perennially bedraggled franchise — using his booming voice, outsized personality and well-practiced whip hand to drive a team with a reputation for summer lassitude past the Astros and then the Royals. The Phillies variously feared, resented and detested him, but they won … with old friend Tug McGraw on the mound for the final out. And so they became immortal together.

The joy wasn’t to last. Green was gone after 1981 and moved on to the Cubs, where he acquired Ryne Sandberg from his old team, built the club that would hold off the Mets in ’84, and drafted Greg Maddux, Mark Grace and Rafael Palmeiro. After he tired of fighting newspaper executives in Chicago he was hired by George Steinbrenner. That proved a match made somewhere south of Heaven, and Green wound up summoned to the other side of New York to clean up the mess left by Jeff Torborg.

If I close my eyes, I can summon up a few things from Dallas’s tenure in Queens. There was that voice, of course — so big that the parabolic mikes behind home plate at Shea could pick up exactly what he was saying to umpires, often to the consternation of squeamish TV viewers. Which wasn’t the fault of the guys in the truck — when Dallas Green was pissed in Queens you could lean out your window in Brooklyn and hear a distant rumble. And at full boil he was a one-man Krakatoa, a challenge to even the most distant of sound barriers.

There was also his habit of staring out of the dugout in open-mouthed astonishment when Mets who should still have been in Tidewater did something particularly stupid on the field, as happened depressingly often during that era. No matter how disgusted I was with those hapless Mets, the sight of hulking, voluble Dallas Green rendered speechless by them would reduce me to helpless laughter. He’d gape at the proceedings until he reluctantly accepted that what had just happened was real, then mount the dugout steps trailed by a cloud of can’t-believe-this-shitness and do … well, most of the time it wasn’t clear what if anything could be done, but by the time Dallas reached the mound or home plate he’d think of something.

By the end of his Mets tenure it was pretty clear that Dallas was a man from another era. He took heat for a domestic-violence crack that would have had a clubhouse full of (all male) reporters laughing in 1973 but wasn’t so funny in 1993. He chafed at having to teach young Mets things they should have learned before earning a big-league diploma. He scowled at suggestions that he keep such thoughts to himself. After leaving the Mets he never managed again, returning to the Phillies as an adviser.

In 2011, his 9-year-old granddaughter was killed in Arizona by the gunman who targeted Gabby Giffords. Christina-Taylor Green had been born on 9/11 and loved baseball; her grandfather liked to imagine her growing up to become the first woman to play in the big leagues. Green was heartbroken and sought solace in baseball, but he also spoke out about gun control, deftly balancing his love of hunting and support for the Second Amendment with his belief that our gun laws had careened out of balance. But that was no surprise; Green rarely left an opinion unstated, whatever tumult that opinion might cause. His managerial tenure wasn’t much to remember, but the man sure was.

* * *

As a mournful coda to the above, this morning I went through the New York papers looking for the best columns about Green — and found next to nothing.

No memories of one of the four men to manage both the Mets and Yankees? Really? Of the guy who had to deal with an Augean stables of bleach throwers and explosive hurlers? Really?

Really. Even a couple of years ago, Dallas Green’s death would have meant a column in every paper at the very least. But it isn’t a couple of years ago in the newspaper business, which has been stripped of reporting muscle and institutional memory — and there’s no end in sight to the downsizing. Nor are digital outlets immune — the powers that be at ESPN New York have opted to replace Adam Rubin with indifference.

It’s enough to make this former reporter feel like a man from another era himself.

16 comments to Last of the Old School

  • Gregg Of Boken

    Hear, hear on your final sentiments, Mr. Fry. Those of us who are fans of a vocal and diverse fourth estate are in a grim, grim place.

  • Rick Taylor

    The most vivid memory I have of Dallas Green was when I was living in Milwaukee and he was GM of the Cubs. I was listening to WGN for the upcoming Cubs game and Green had just fired Jim Frey, one of his closest friends, as manager of the Cubs. His firing was criticized fiercely and when Don Zimmer, Frey’s third base coach, was asked by a radio reporter what he thought of Green’s move, Zimmer spat out “God couldn’t win with this team!” Green, being who he was, couldn’t have cared less.

  • Lenny65

    Terrific piece. This is exactly how I remember the Dallas Green era in Flushing. He might have been a curmudgeon but for a while he was our curmudgeon, RIP.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I happened to be listening to the Mets game the other afternoon and Howie Rose seemed really chocked up about Green’s death. Josh Lewin actually sort of stepped in to offer his thoughts to give Howie a minute or two to compose himself.

    As for those “five undistinguished innings”, yes, but in one of them he gave up Jimmy Piersall’s 100th Home Run. And we know how that went. What I wish we knew was exactly what Dallas Green was thinking as he stood on the mound and watched the spectacle unfold.

  • Dennis

    Excellent tribute to a true baseball lifer who I always was a fan of. I was thrilled when he was elected to replace Jeff Torborg back in 93. I was still naive enough to think he could turn that team around, but was still happy he was here for those rough seasons. May he RIP.

  • eric1973

    Jason, we are from another era, especially when we reference 1973 —– and darn proud of it.

    Guess the papers used up all their ink on Chuck Barris.

  • Dave

    Perfect tribute, Jason. Baseball passed Dallas Green by in several ways that it probably shouldn’t have. If he had a good roster to work with, I’m sure he would hold a very important place in Mets history and fans’ hearts.

    But in later years, every time I thought of him I thought of the unspeakably tragic and avoidable death of his granddaughter. RIP.

  • Will in Central NJ

    I recall in May of 1993, as I sat with my fiancée (now wife) and friends on the first base side of the Field Boxes at Shea, wondering if/when the Mets’ managerial storm would work itself out. (My friend’s boss was forced to give away his season tickets regularly that lousy season; thus our primo location in whispering distance to Eddie Murray around the 1B bag.)

    The stiff breeze that draped the horizontal mists in our faces was befitting of the sullen mood around the Mets. It was rumored strongly rumored that that evening’s game against Pittsburgh would be manager Jeff Torborg’s last. It was, and we were all cautiously optimistic about the abilities of the incoming manager, Dallas Green. Alas, Green’s tenure with the Mets was underwhelming. Still, I’ll recall Green’s tenure as Met manager as a sign of simpler times, for the Mets, for myself, and NYC in general.

    By the way, Jason, I believe Mike Lupica wrote a pretty good column about Dallas Green over at Sports on Earth, a subsidiary of MLB.com. You should check that out, if you haven’t already.

  • argman

    While Green couldn’t turn those mid-90’s teams around, I remember the ’94 and’95 teams at least being somewhat competitive. Not like that horror show in ’93.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Saw Dallas pitch for my local Buffalo Bisons around 1959. Thirty years later one of my best friends, it turned out, used to babysit for him back in Delaware, so we got many a ticket behind dugout at Shea, and got to sit with his wonderful wife, a skydiver in her ’60s. She certainly could make you take the guff from gruff Dallas easier. Later he would give my friend and I (who share an APBA computer team) tips on young Phillies for our drafts….R.I.P.

  • APV

    Late to the party and been very busy lately so haven’t posted since last season. Used to badmouth this guy all the time. It wasn’t long ago that I was LOLing at Dallas Green on this site after listening to Eric Hillman roast him in an interview. Was angry enough after a loss in August 1996 that I wrote “Green Must Go” on my scorecard and stuck it in front of a Channel 9 camera; got my wish three weeks later. Thought he was a lousy player handler by then and Bobby V’s success a year later (despite his own issues) proved the firing was necessary.

    But now? I feel like a jerk for all of that. Nobody should go through what Dallas Green went through six years ago. And now that he’s gone I think I appreciate what he was: a true baseball lifer. Not a success with the Mets but more of a success than I’ll ever be. Vaya con Dios Senor Green.

  • Kevin from Flushing

    I realize now I’ve probably been too hard on Mr Green. When he took over the club in 93, I was 12. At first I was thrilled, and remember declaring, “thank God, now we have someone who will be smart enough to get rid of Anthony Young.” My patience level with Dallas ran out in his second game at the helm–because he brought in AY to pitch the 9th inning of a 6-1 victory over Atlanta. I didn’t have all that much critical thought about how to manage at that age, which I realize now is why I hated Dallas Green, I suppose unfairly. My ire was pointed at him for not being able to turn around our team of stars, whereas today I imagine it would rest squarely with Hunsicker and Harazin, and perhaps Wilpon & Doubleday.

    Thanks for writing this, Jason. You’ve made me rethink how I feel about a guy I’ve held a foolish grudge against since I was a child.

  • Ed P

    Oh wow, I forgot about his Granddaughter. Horrible.

  • Harvey Poris

    The NY Times ran a nice obituary of Dallas Green. It did not
    mention he was one of four men to manage the Yanks and Mets nor his role in the famous Piersall HR.

  • Mike Friedman

    The Cubs never would have won ANYTHING without him.