Dallas Green, a towering baseball figure who won a World Series as a manager in Philadelphia and paved the way for lights at Wrigley Field as president of the Chicago Cubs, died Wednesday. He was 82.
No cause of death was announced, but Green had been suffering from kidney failure and had been in declining health for much of the past year.
Green spent 62 years in baseball as a player, manager, general manager, team president, minor league director and scout. He managed the Philadelphia Phillies to the first World Series title in franchise history in 1980. He was one of just four men to manage both the New York Yankees and New York Mets. He also spent six seasons as general manager and president of the Cubs from 1982 to '87.
"The game lost a great baseball man today," Phillies chairman David Montgomery said in a statement released by the team. "Dallas held many different positions in baseball, and his passion and love for the game was evident in every role he played.
"He was a big man with a big heart and a bigger-than-life personality. Having known Dallas since 1971, he was one of my first phone calls upon becoming Phillies president because of his perspective and advice. All of us at the Phillies had tremendous respect for Dallas as a baseball man and friend. We will miss him dearly. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Sylvia, and his children, Dana, John, Kim and Doug."
Green was known for his booming voice and strong opinions. Throughout his career, he never shied from confrontations with everyone from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to city officials in Chicago over causes he believed in.
In Philadelphia in 1980, he took on a group of veteran stars who had won three division titles in a row, accused them of quitting and not caring whether their team won or lost, and wound up driving them to the first title in the 97-year history of the franchise.
In Chicago, he threatened to shut down Wrigley Field and move the Cubs to Schaumburg, Illinois, or even to Comiskey Park if the city didn't agree to let the Cubs erect lights and play baseball at night. Those battles laid the groundwork for the first night games at Wrigley in 1988, months after Green resigned as president following a series of fights with the Tribune Co., which then owned the club.
In New York, Green grew tired of Steinbrenner's relentless second-guessing of the way he managed the Yankees and once referred to the Boss as "Manager George." That clash ultimately led to Steinbrenner's firing of Green after just four and a half months on the job.
Green later spent four relatively peaceful years as the manager of the Mets, but even there, he stirred up the tabloids by announcing that it was time for pitcher Dwight Gooden "to go elsewhere" after the ace failed his fourth drug test.
Two years after he was fired by the Mets in 1996, Green returned to Philadelphia and spent the next 19 years working in the Phillies' front office as a special adviser to five general managers.
Green grew up in Delaware as a fan of the Phillies and was signed by the team in 1955 after a career as a star pitcher for the University of Delaware. He once seemed bound for stardom but hurt his arm while pitching in the minor leagues on a cold night in Buffalo, New York. Although he eventually spent parts of eight seasons pitching in the big leagues, he finished with a career record of just 20-22, with a 4.26 ERA.
However, he had a close relationship with both the Carpenter family, which owned the Phillies, and Paul Owens, who would become the club's general manager in the early 1970s. The Phillies hired Green as a minor league coach and manager after his playing career ended. He then began to ascend the ranks of their front office as a protégé of Owens.
Green's goal was to become a big league general manager. When it became clear to him in 1981 that Owens would be ensconced in that job in Philadelphia for years to come, he allowed himself to be courted by the Cubs and was hired as their general manager after the 1981 season.
One of Green's first moves as GM was a blockbuster trade with the Phillies that brought Larry Bowa and an infield prospect named Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs, in exchange for shortstop Ivan DeJesus. Sandberg went on to become a Hall of Fame second baseman, and he and Green remained close for the next 35 years.
"Dallas was instrumental in really my whole baseball career," Sandberg told the Chicago media Wednesday. "That was a huge opportunity and a huge break for me."
Sandberg said Green "came in and totally changed the Cubs culture in that first year in 1982." When Green took over, the Cubs hadn't had a winning record in a decade, but in 1984, he led them to their first trip to the postseason since 1945, thanks to trades that brought in outfielder Gary Matthews, pitcher Dennis Eckersley and pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, who went on to win the Cy Young Award that year. That winter, Green won the Sporting News' executive of the year award.
Green's later years were touched by tragedy. In 2011, his 9-year-old granddaughter, Christina, was killed in Arizona in a shooting that targeted Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Christina was the daughter of Green's son, John, who works as a national cross-checker for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I can't believe this could happen to any 9-year-old child, much less our own," Green said at the time.
In addition to John, Green is survived by his wife, Sylvia, his two daughters, Dana and Kim, his son, Douglas, and five grandchildren.