After writing about Dallas Green yesterday, I wondered what kind of tribute the Phillies would have at the ballpark today to honor his legacy. I arrived at Spectrum Field a little bit early just to see if there was any special vibe. I was surprised a bit that there were no tribute shirts when in fact the Ted Williams Charity Auction nostalgia buff trap had a signed Green jersey on display just a few days ago. I expressed my surprise to the auctioneer, who told me that they had Green memorabilia out, but someone came by from the front office and asked them to put the items away. Draw your own conclusions …
Dallas wore #46 when he pitched for the Phillies, the same number he wore when he managed them to the World Series in 1980. Ironically Green was a pedestrian pitcher for the Phillies team that infamously blew the pennant in 1964, and his#46 was worn the next year by a rookie who was traded to the Chicago Cubs in a deal for Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl. Although Green is given much credit for stealing Ryne Sandberg and Larry Bowa from the Phillies for Ivan DeJesus, there was precedence in giving away a future Hall of Famer to the Cubs. The kid who wore#46 was Ferguson Jenkins.
I thought alot about Dallas as I walked around the park before the game. How much effort he reportedly put into the cloverleaf design of the Carpenter Complex where the future bloodlines of the club trained.
Dallas had such a good eye for talent that he even participated at the Phillies Fantasy Camp in helping assign players to various teams. I recall how nervous I was, taking some hacks at the plate, knowing that Dallas was watching me and likely cringing. Walking a bit further toward Frenchy’s Tiki Bar I paused to peer over at Aaron Nola warming up. Dallas must have looked at young talent and waxed nostalgic about what might have been. The game churns up young arms with bright futures and deposits them on shore to fend for themselves.
And then I noticed that two flags were flying at half mast, the Phillies team flag and the MLB flag. Apparently there would be a tribute to Dallas after all, even though none of the ushers seemed to be aware of what was happening.
Dandy Dan McDonough looked at his watch and summoned all the Phillies players out of the dugout, joined by the Twins’ players along their dugout’s baseline.
Chris Wheeler, the ex-broadcaster demoted to player introductions, read a tribute to Green as several images flashed across the scoreboard.
And then a truly touching moment, as Dennis Gwindale played the Star Spangled Banner on his trumpet, rendering the same feel as the playing of taps at a military funeral.
No doubt the tributes will continue to pour in from all over the baseball world. Not only because this game penetrates to the roots of America’s heartlands, but because Dallas Green was able to instill valuable life’s lessons into the minds of all men. And there will be surprises, such as the episode that Marcus Hayes wrote about this afternoon during which Dallas turned Ryan Howard’s head around. But that was in 2005, when Dallas still commanded the attention of ballplayers – and Hayes credits him for motivating Howard not to insist on a trade when the Phillies felt he wasn’t ready to displace Jim Thome. It’s a shame that Green wasn’t able to wield the same influence on a post 2011 Howard whose effort at times seemed lackluster (is it any wonder that no club has been interested in signing him after the Phillies checkbook finally ran out, or that the souvenir shop can’t give away his leftover merchandise for five bucks?).
Green’s attachment to the game began to fade in 2011. As Mike Lupica poignantly wrote yesterday, it was the terrible tragedy involving his granddaughter that melted the tough exterior for good. That raw exposure mellowed him and changed his perspective, but it also took a terrible toll.