Blunt as ever, Green recounts his life in baseball
Former skipper, exec reflects on tragic death of granddaughter in Arizona shooting
Even if "The Mouth That Roared: My Six Outspoken Decades in Baseball" did nothing more than provide a breezy read about the remarkable career of Dallas Green, that would have been enough.
There isn't much the 78-year-old, now a senior advisor for the Phillies, hasn't done in the game. He's been a player and a coach. He's been a scout, farm director, general manager and team president. He managed the Phillies, Mets and Yankees, bringing the first World Series championship to Philadelphia in 1980. He did it all while routinely telling the truth as he saw it, even if others didn't always appreciate his blunt approach.
But what sets his book, written with Alan Maimon, apart are the few pages at the end when Green recounts how a national tragedy struck him in a profoundly personal way. When a gunman in Tucson, Ariz., set out to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January 2011, six others were killed. One of them was a 9-year-old girl named Christina-Taylor Green, Dallas' granddaughter.
While admitting that he'll never fully get over the loss, Green talks about this wrenching experience with the same unflinching honesty with which he discusses other chapters of his life. He doesn't hide the fact that hunting is one of his favorite pastimes, but he believes there should be a limit on the sorts of weapons individuals can own. He openly admits that he's angry that the shooter was ruled mentally incompetent, thus escaping the death penalty. He speaks movingly about trying to get past his understandable trauma to celebrate Christina-Taylor's life.
"I'm supposed to be a tough sucker, but I'm not very tough when it comes to this," he said.
It's the tough guy who dominates most of the book. Green is candid about the partying and occasional fights that were part of the Phillies' culture when he became part of their front office. While he recognizes that there may be another side to a story, he also leaves no doubt that he believes he's right.
Green can be self-deprecatory at times. "My 1963 Topps baseball card featured this bit of information about me: 'Once plagued by wildness, Dallas can now consistently get the ball where he wants it.' Unfortunately, I just as often put the ball exactly where hitters wanted it."
He's also a man of contradictions. Green was once the Phillies' player representative. He fought to allow black players to stay in the team hotel in Spring Training and for all players to be treated more civilly. He mentions several times that the Phillies were, at the time, a cheap organization. At the same time, he's now critical of how much power the Major League Baseball Players Association has.
What carries the story, though, is his willingness to share his unvarnished opinions. For example, many may view Gene Mauch as a brilliant tactician, but to Green, Mauch was a "lousy people person" who showed up his players and whose accomplishments fell short of his stated ambitions on more than one occasion.
On the talented but underachieving 1980 team that he whipped all the way to winning the World Series, Green wrote: "I battled with my players the whole year. You've heard about player revolts that cause managers to lose the clubhouse? Well, in 1980, I lost the clubhouse almost every day."
When he took over the Cubs, Green enraged traditionalists by advocating for lights at Wrigley Field and firing franchise icon Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub. He also had a low opinion of the popular Bill Buckner, whom he eventually traded. "Buck was happy to put his numbers up, but he was never truly content. And he most definitely never embraced the idea of baseball as a team sport. ... That wasn't the kind of guy I wanted on my team."
He also takes a good swipe at the Tribune Co., which owned the Cubs at the time, for pulling the rug out from under him after he'd reached an agreement to sign free agent Steve Garvey.
Working for the Yankees provided a treasure trove of George Steinbrenner stories. And Green wasn't too impressed with the way the Mets ran their team while he was there, either.
In the middle of this, though, is a foreshadowing. Green relates the story of how, in 1972, his daughter Kim wanted to play Little League but was turned away because of her gender. He recounts how his wife Sylvia took up the cause, eventually supporting an ACLU lawsuit against the league.
Some four decades later, Christina-Taylor Green was the only girl on her Little League team. That's the sort of powerful coincidence that lifts this tale above simple entertainment.