by Clark Groome
Most people in these parts likely view Dallas Green primarily as the man who led the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies to the franchise’s first World Series championship.
For anyone around when the Phillies took the city on that magic carpet ride 33 years ago, Green’s recently published autobiography, “The Mouth That Roared,” (342 pages, Triumph Books, $29.95) will bring back terrific memories. The largest part of the book is devoted to the time he spent with the Phillies.
If you’re expecting a warm and fuzzy book about that fabled team or about almost anything else in Dallas Green’s nearly six decades in professional baseball, think again.
Green has always had the reputation of speaking his mind. “The Mouth That Roared,” written with Alan Maimon, confirms that. His book is full of candid comments on the players he pitched with, the players he coached, and the executives for and with whom he worked.
The lasting impression is that Green’s career was fueled by a passion for the game, a passion that itself was often fueled by alcohol. It is also clear that his views of others are often driven by whether or not they agreed with or kowtowed to him.
His honesty is refreshing. His personality is not.
It’s no secret that many on the 1980s Phillies team couldn’t stand him. He writes that Bob Boone, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Gary Maddox and Mike Schmidt were in that group. On the other hand, Steve Carlton, Bake McBride, Tug McGraw, Pete Rose and Manny Trillo all bought into his program, which was for players to give 100 percent all the time and put the team before the individual.
The reality is that whatever he and they did, it really didn’t take hold until the end of the 1980 season. It was two days before the season ended that the Phillies clinched their division title.
That was followed by the five-game National League Championship Series (widely thought to be the best post-season series ever). It took five games, four of them going into extra innings, for the Phils to win. From there it was on to beat the Kansas City Royals in six games and turn Philadelphia into Celebration City.
At this point, nobody really cared whether Dallas was the pain-in-the-ass many thought him to be or the genius others called him. All that mattered was that the PHILLIES WON THE WORLD SERIES!!!!
A couple of years later, Green headed off to run the Chicago Cubs, at the time the worst team in the league. The Cubs’ new owner wanted a new approach. They thought Green was the answer. For a while he was.
As Chicago’s general manager, Green pulled off a most lopsided trade when he dealt shortstop Ivan DeJesus to Philadelphia for Larry Bowa and a young throw-in named Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg went on to an extraordinary, Hall-of-Fame career as the Cubs’ longtime second baseman.
Green’s attitude, which he admits can be off-putting, apparently wears thin pretty quickly. He left the Cubs after five years, going on to manage the New York Yankees for part of the 1989 season. From 1993 to 1996, he managed the New York Mets. (He’s one of three people to manage both the Yankees and the Mets. The other two? Casey Stengel and Yogi Berra.)
Ultimately, “The Mouth That Roared” is an interesting book by an interesting man whose time in baseball allows him to reflect on people whose names are familiar to us.
While he wasn’t always successful, he clearly never had much self-doubt. The only organization with which he has had any long-term relationship is the Phillies, where he still serves as a senior advisor to the general manager.
What you can take from that is twofold. The Phillies are a loyal organization, and Green did bring them their first World Series victory. The other is that he is particularly good at judging talent. His instinct about getting the young and unproven Ryne Sandberg to Chicago is one example of his ability to see a young player and project his future.
Green’s book is not without admissions of failure. There are also hints throughout that underneath that brash, profane, alcohol-driven persona is a decent and caring human being.
That is never clearer than in his moving writing about his granddaughter Christina-Taylor Green, who was killed in the 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that wounded congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
This shows a human side to the man who for most of his career tried to deny he had one. It’s a fitting end to a fascinating book by an interesting if not always likeable guy who personifies what it means to be a “true baseball man.”