Baseball has a down-home expression about leadership: "How are you going to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse?"
Nobody in the game is more comfortable on a horse than Philadelphia Manager Dallas Green. With his matinee-idol looks, his wavy silver hair and his imposing 6-foot-5, 230-pound bearing, the 46-year-old Green was born to lead cavalry charges. Instead, he's settled for kicking the Phillies in the rear at brief intervals.
Perhaps no manager in history has ever been so proud that he drives his players crazy. Green has spent this entire season telling the world what the world had already been whispering for four seasons: "The Phillies are spoiled crybabies. The Phillies are lazy, back-biting, overpaid malcontents."
Of course, this is all exaggeration. But that suits Green. His metier is foghorn hyperbole.
"The one thing players don't like to do is look in the mirror," said Green who has already led the Phillies to the best season in their long history. "My job is to be the mirror. Some players think they have more talent than they do. They won't play within themselves.Other players have talent and don't use it . . . the world's full of 'em."
When most teams are on the brink of winning a world title, managers prattle about team character and the noble nature of their men. Not Green. "It's taken a long time even to get close to where we are," he says. "In spring training, I told this team that the pope (General Manager Paul Owens) and I were going to give it one more chance to live up to its talent. Age-wise, if we didn't win this year, we'd have to make changes. I told 'em that a lotta guys in that room were on their last hurrah and they ought to realize it. lPaul and I felt we'd give them one more chance to overcome the ghosts."
And did this hard-nosed message take seed in the Phillies' barren soil?
"No," said Green.
In mid-August, the Phils lost four straight to Pittsburgh and looked dead. Green cast aside appeals to sentiment. He blew his cork. He screamed at his players for an extended period of time, telling them collectively and individually what he thought of them, with repeated references to lack of guts and getting up off their butts.
So that was the turning point, right, Dallas? Everybody got straight in August. The message finally sank in?
"No," said Green. "It's only in the last 10 days that they've started to sniff it, that I think they've sincerely wanted it."
This is heresy, indeed. Whoever heard of a manager in the middle of the World Series saying that his team didn't wake up and fly right until the final week of the season?
But that's what the man said. And he's right. With seven days left in the regular season, the Phils were 85-70. It looked like they wouldn't even win 90 games. They were only in the race at all because Pittsburgh and Montreal had played much worse than in '79, when they won 97 and 95 games.
In addition, the Phils had threatened the major league record for dissension. "Did I ever feel like I'd made the wrong decision in becoming manager?" said Green. "Many, many times. But I'm not a quitter. The pope and I had had one of our infamous wee-hour meetings after the '79 season . . . you know, drinking Cokes . . . and finally, Paul got enough firewater in me to say I thought I'd be the greatest manager who ever lived. So I took the (managing) job.
"Nah, nah, I'm sorta kidding," Green said with a laugh. "I took the job because I knew I could do it differently."
Green may become general manager after this year; he has made it clear all along that he is a front-office executive, not a career field manager."I knew I'd be tough about my beliefs. Other guys talk about what they'd do if they were managers, how they'd have discipline and teach fundamentals and insist on unselfishness.Then they get the job and they become the biggest nambie-pambies of all.
"well, I've done it my way," bragged Green, who is only telling the truth. "I'd like to be liked. But if a player doesn't like me just because I'm trying to get him to do things the right way, then I couldn't care less what they think. Every move has to be to help the organization, not the individual. These guys have no idea what a World Series means -- in money and pleasure -- to all the little people, from the ticket-takers to the ushers.
"I believe in saying what's on my mind, though sometimes I'll admit I open my big mouth when I shouldn't. Despite the facade I put on, I'm an emotional guy and I go by my feelings. But I'm not a grudge holder. I wish I could say that the reverse were true. Garry Maddox has blasted me, and I didn't blast him back. Mike Schmidt has blasted me, and I didn't blast him back. The same with Greg Luzinski ("Dallas ought to shut up") and Larry Bowa ("He's a dictator"). The one thing that has disappointed me is that players haven't come to my office to talk things out like I hoped they would."
It is an unwritten rule that a manager stands up for his players, covers for them. Not Green. He won't even support them in their boycott-the-press tactics.
"It's immature," said Green of his players hiding in training rooms. "Some of them succumb to peer pressure. If they were men enough, they should realize it comes with the territory."
When Green looks for a player to praise, he looks all the way to the end of his bench for scrub John Vukovich. "He can't run and he can't hit," said Green, "although he'd probably punch me if I said it to his face. But he can scream and yell. He's part of the spirit and guts of this team. He doesn't back off from the stars. He'll tell 'em off. A lot of extra men who yell a lot let the big guys run the game the way they want. Not him . . . yeah, someday he can manage."
Green was just such a marginal player, scrambling up to the majors for five years as a pitcher after hurting his arm. He learned the game under the greatest of all screamers and player-kickers, Gene Mauch.
Although Green doesn't say it, he thinks he inherited a team with plenty of talent but no interest. And he plans to win a Series with them, whether they want to or not. When Philadelphia lined up along the foul line for pregame introductions today, the Phils all cheered politely for each other. All except when Green was introduced. One man in Phillie maroon gave one clap, then saw that nobody else had moved a finger, so he stopped, too. He was the trainer.
Grudgingly, the Phils give Green some credit. Getting deep into a Series will do that. Yet it galls them that Green has said, "Ten percent of this team is a cancer that will be cut out after the season." They are angry that he embarrassed Bob Boone, Luzinski and Maddox with benchings in the midst of the pennant race. When a team has an average salary of $200,000 a year and has been given its head for years under sleepy Danny Ozark, it's hard to get used to close-order drill and homely truths.