Welcome to a new Midway Minute feature: On This Day in Chicago Sports History. Today, we remember Cubs executive Dallas Green, who died March 22, 2017. As the general manager, Green returned the Cubs to the postseason after 39 years away, and as team president he was instrumental in finally lighting up Wrigley Field.
Dallas Green modernized the Cubs, bringing them back to respectability with two playoff appearances in the 1980s, along with compelling the City of Chicago to allow the team to install permanent lights at Wrigley Field. Green's physical size (he was a major league pitcher in the 1960s), his booming voice and his confident attitude gave him a formidable platform from which to work.
Under the ownership of the Chicago Tribune, Green took over as Cubs general manager before the 1982 season, pledging to build a "New Tradition" after the organization had failed for nearly 40 years to reach the postseason. Two years later in 1984, Green had transformed a perennial loser into the NL East champions — in large part by bringing in many players from his previous organization, the Phillies.
Green is responsible for two of the greatest trades in Chicago sports history, first bringing in Ryne Sandberg and Larry Bowa for Ivan DeJesus in January 1982. Sandberg is in Cooperstown. With the Cubs contending in June of '84 — in a much fairer but still legendary deal — Green added Rick Sutcliffe, Ron Hassey and George Frazier for Joe Carter and Mel Hall. Sucliffe went 16-1 in '84 for a division winner.
The Cubs fell a win short of reaching the World Series in '84, and plenty of frustration followed in the years (and decades) to come, but Green had made a difference.
Lights at Wrigley Field came in 1988 after the neighborhood and city relented in to Green's constant pressure. Green had surprised many, if not all, by resigning as GM and team president in October of '87. His legacy would soon be evident, however.
Green and farm director Gordon Goldsberry enriched the Cubs minor-league system, bringing in Shawon Dunston, Greg Maddux, Rafael Palmeiro, Jamie Moyer and Mark Grace — additions who drove the Cubs to another division title in 1989, even though Green had moved on. And Wrigley as a ballpark remains a special place, even with lights and necessary renovations recently done by subsequent ownership.
Green also managed the Yankees briefly, along with the Mets from 1993 to 1996. He died at age 82 on March 22, 2017 after suffering from kidney failure and other health issues.