I’ll start this out by letting you know I was being interviewed for a Podcast the other night.
Yes, your first thought is probably the same as mine … if someone paid Chuck $1 every time he was interviewed for a Podcast, he’d now be up to $1.
At any rate, while I was potentially babbling through some Podcast answer that had nothing to do with the question, I started to tell a cautionary tale.
It’s a big “What If” for me. What if the plans being developed in the Dallas Green era were allowed to be played out?
It’s something I think about from time-to-time. It’s easier to block out meetings I wasn’t privy to.
But I remember where I was when the Associated Press bulletin came out saying the Cubs had called a major news conference. And I just did not have a good feeling.
It was October 1987, and I was on a four-day job interview in Boise for a sports desk position with the Idaho Statesman. If they had upped their offer, my entire future would have been different.
Before I had left for Boise, I had called “my people” in the Cubs media relations office – since I had just finished my second internship there just a few months before. At that point, I was two months away from being offered a full-time position with the team.
The Cubs were in a managerial search, and I had called to be nosy. I was told nothing was imminent.
As I sat in the newspaper sports department talking to potential future colleagues, the AP bulletin came out – and the immediate speculation among the group was that the Cubs had hired their next manager. A lot of names were thrown around. I just sat there and listened and didn’t weigh in; something didn’t seem right to me.
As I said, I had just checked in a few days before with people in the know – and I was told the managerial search was going to take some time. Dallas wasn’t going to make a quick decision in the same vein as the Gene Michael hiring the year before. In fact, while Dallas had brought the Cubs and Wrigley Field back to life in a very short period of time – and totally revamped the farm system – he hadn’t found true success in any of his managerial hires.
Truth be told, I didn’t know Dallas that well. As an intern – and a quiet one at that – I was THE low man on the totem pole, and he didn’t know me. Heck, I was too short for him to see me.
Dallas was tall (standing 6-foot-5), he was gruff, and you literally felt his presence when he walked down the hall past the media relations office. Not only did his every step make a booming sound, but – because of his height and the low ceiling – the light coming in from the hallway would get muted for a brief second in the same way the sun disappears when its blocked by a cloud. In other words, you knew when he was coming or going.
So when the news came out later that day that Dallas had resigned over “philosophical differences” with Tribune Company, I wasn’t surprised.
As happens in baseball, once the top guy leaves, someone new comes in – and most (if not all) of the top guy’s trusted posse soon find themselves replaced.
While I never would have spent quality time with Don Zimmer if Jim Frey hadn’t taken over … and might never have been around some of the nicest people I had the opportunity to meet like Dick Balderson and Chuck Cottier and Jose Martinez … and might never have lived the Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams experience … I can’t help but wonder what might have been had the Dallas Green plan played out.
Everyone says they’re going to rebuild a farm system. But think about the players who came into the system during his years in Chicago. Think about the pieces left behind when Dallas left:
What if that group was kept together … and grew together … and gelled together.
I would have liked to have seen what might have happened.