Donnellon: Phillies' memories of Dallas Green

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Dallas Green with then-Phillies manager Larry Bowa (left) in 2003.

CLEARWATER, Fla. - John Kruk was a three-time All-Star, a pennant winner, a .300 hitter over the course of his 10-year career. He also played for Larry Bowa in San Diego and became a Phillie at least in part because of him, because Bowa believed Kruk's "belly" - as Dallas Green used to describe toughness - would have passed the test of his old manager.

"He looked at me one day," Kruk said of Bowa after hearing of Green's passing. "And he said, 'You could have played for Dallas. Because I put more on you. And you can take it.' "

There is old school. And there is baseball's equivalent of Oxford and Cambridge. Dallas Green, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 82, was a professor emeritus of those old schools, of an unforgiving and often unrelenting demand for daily excellence that likely wouldn't play well or long in this era, and was a bit of strain even inside of the era in which he managed with the blunt force of an errantly pitched fastball.

"You can't give up a play here," Kruk said. "You can't give up an at-bat here. Larry was Dallas. If you had a motto to assign both it would be, 'The hell with tomorrow, do it today.' There was no tomorrow.

"You don't know how many times Larry told me, echoing his conversations with Dallas, 'How do you know that isn't your last at-bat?' "

Minutes before, as he walked briskly to his car, Bowa was told of his old manager's passing. He stopped, mulled saying something for just a moment, then continued toward his car, his head bowed, his walk slowed. Later, through the Phillies, he issued this:

Poll

Who was the greatest manager in Phillies history?

"Dallas was what Philly is all about: toughness, honesty and fairness. Without Dallas the Phillies would not have won the World Series in 1980. I wish all our current players would have had the opportunity to meet Dallas.

"He was a huge impact on my career as a player, manager and coach. He will be truly missed. Our prayers go out to Sylvia and the entire Green family."

"He was a man's man," Pat Gillick was saying as he watched the final outs of the Phillies' 7-3 loss to the Yankees. "Straight shooter. Man of his word. That's his imprint. He was a real baseball guy, loved the game.

"It's a different generation now."

All around Spectrum Field, there were reminders of that. Bill Giles, watching the game outside of the Phillies offices, spoke later about Green the scout, the talent judge who, until he fell ill, would sit in on each Phillies draft, advocating the eye test over any statistical analysis.

"Everybody's into the computers and all that stuff," Giles said. "Which may be fine. But is not part of his repertoire."

Former Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler and former team chairman David Montgomery recalled the bluntness and the booming voice, how both so often intimidated those meeting him for the first time, yet became endearing through familiarity.

"You have to step back when you first meet Dallas Green," Montgomery said. "Not only his size, but that personality and that voice. It was a big part of Dallas. He would fill a room with his presence. But when you got to the core of the man he was very lovable, if that's the right word to use. But I think he enjoyed his size and his presence to sort of keep people at bay."

"I can still hear him screaming at me," Wheeler said of meeting him for the first time as a 25-year-old publicist. "He and Paul Owens could scare the hell out of you. But he really taught you how to act. Be a pro in this game."

Said Montgomery: "I saw so many sides of him. I saw the fun-loving side. I saw the competitive side . . . How about the battle he put up over the last year?"

Green's exhaustive battle with kidney disease pulled him finally from the game he is so identified with, and from the team he is most identified with. His arrival into that veteran-laden clubhouse late in the 1979 season, the draconian methods that led to a first-ever world championship, is now as much a part of the team's fabric as their uniforms.

"He was so big, and so loud," Wheeler recalled. "And he had some of them as minor leaguers. He could tell Larry Bowa to shut up. He could tell Garry Maddox things. That this was the way it was going to be . . . "

"It's also kind of fitting that we're here in Florida when you think about it," Montgomery said. "The Carpenter Complex. I think of two people . . . "

He teared up, then gathered himself.

"He would want us to go on, though," said Montgomery, who has battled through his own health issues. "Because the most important thing to him about the game was the game itself. He loved it, he respected it, he wanted to see it played right. And he wanted to make sure all the pitchers were at least 6 feet tall.

"I used to say to him, 'How about all those guys who were successful that were drop and drive?'

"But he was like, 'Why are we even talking about this little guy?' "

Outside the clubhouse, Kruk again ran the parallels between the manager who had mentored him as a young player, and the mentor of that manager.

"Once I was traded here, I got to know Dallas a little bit," Kruk said. "And it was like, 'You don't want to disappoint him.' 'Cause you knew he wanted it done right. Play the game hard. Play for today. It was a grind. But it was a fun grind. Because you knew if you did that, that guys like him, guys like Larry, they were in your corner."

donnels@phillynews.com

@samdonnellon

Columns: ph.ly/Donnellon