Ex-baseball manager finds new meaning for 'field'

THE REAL DIRT

May 18, 1991|By MIKE KLINGAMAN

Dallas Green is bushed. The former baseball manager has planted 250 pine trees and 200 azaleas on his land in recent weeks, and now it's time to sow the corn. Moreover, here comes his wife, Sylvia, with some dahlias that ought to be planted today.

The asparagus needs picking and the lawn needs trimming. Dallas Green rattles off the lineup of chores and sighs. In the spring, every day demands extra innings for diligent gardeners.

"It's a madhouse this time of year. The grass grows so fast it's mind-boggling. It's amazing the time you can put into your property," he says.

He never had time before.

Two years ago, Mr. Green was a big-league manager, and Yankee Stadium was his domain. But Yankee managers can change in a New York minute. When the club sent Mr. Green packing, he went down to the farm.

Nowadays, Mr. Green's field of dreams is a 250-acre spread in Conowingo (Cecil County), in northeast Maryland. He also owns a 60-acre farm near Philadelphia, whose ballclub he led to a world championship in 1980.

He is probably the first man in baseball to go from skipper to groundskeeper without a hitch. Or a complaint.

"After 37 years in baseball, gardening is a great release," says Mr. Green, whose career included a stint as general manager of the Chicago Cubs. His managerial record stands at 225 victories and 195 defeats.

"There are no tensions, no telephones," he says of gardening. "It feels good just to work up a sweat out there.

"When I'm working the land, that's all I'm concentrating on and it's kind of a flushing-out mechanism for me. Hell, I put up 13,000 bales of hay last year. It's tough to stay tense when you've got that much to do."

Embracing the land has redefined Mr. Green's baseball vernacular. For instance, "spring training" now means coaxing the clematis to climb up the trellis. Mr. Green is less concerned with gopher balls than with gophers. He does lime his field, but for agricultural reasons unrelated to baseball.

As manager, he participated loudly in rhubarbs. Now he grows the stuff.

Mr. Green says he finds baseball and gardening appealing for the same reason.

"I love to watch things grow," says Mr. Green. "In baseball, I always enjoyed watching players turn from gangly, unsophisticated kids into pretty decent athletes. Gardening can be the same way. You plow the ground, plant the seed and watch it grow into something that can be spectacular."

Baseball fans cannot imagine the tempestuous Mr. Green, who is 6-feet-5, with the patience to plant tiny tomato seedlings. But he does.

"I'm the 'Honey-do' guy. My wife tells me where to plant things," he says. "I do the bulk work; she's the thinker."

Mr. Green grows most of his vegetables in raised beds after starting them from seeds indoors.

He plans to turn his Maryland farm into a small game preserve after planting sorghum and corn to attract local pheasants and quail. Mr. Green has already replaced a rundown, century-old apple orchard with dwarf fruit trees, including peach, apple and cherry.

When not tending his own crops, he enjoys visiting public gardens and arboretums in the region. This year, he was named spokesman for The Garden Passport Project, which offers discounts to visitors at 14 well-known horticultural sites in the Delaware Valley, including Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa., and Winterthur, in Delaware.

"Those gardens are so soothing and pleasing to look at," he says. "So often, we get caught up in what we're doing and forget there is beauty in the countryside."

Despite his hectic schedule, however, Mr. Green has not forsaken baseball. Last month, he accepted a part-time scouting position with the New York Mets.

"They called and told me it was time I got back in the game," says Mr. Green.

"They said it was time I stopped loafing."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.