CHICAGO – It’s pretty rare the two names have been spoken in the same sentence. That’s why it’s a shame that it has to be in this way.
Two incredible general managers, two men who helped to change the course of their respective franchises, each defined by two banners that fly in their former places of work.
The first arena to start in when telling the story of these two men is obvious: The United Center. A fan who peers up into the rafters on a given night will see a most unique banner hanging.
“General Manager Jerry Krause 6 NBA Titles.”
A rare sight at an NBA arena where the top part is reserved for great athletes and the championship banners they collect. Jerry Krause was good enough to crack this sacred part of any stadium.
Why? Because he was bold.
A skilled scout, Krause wasn’t afraid to make a move that angered even the biggest of players if it made his team better. The Charles Oakley deal was terribly unpopular with Michael Jordan, who carried a healthy amount of disdain for his general manager during his career. Yet the acquisition of Bill Cartwright in the trade was critical to the Bulls’ first three-peat.
Every single move on those six championship teams, with the exception the drafting of Jordan by then GM Rod Thorn, was made by Krause. Yes, there is nothing without the greatest player in the world, but he was only able to bring banners when he had the help necessary to turn Jordan’s greatness into team glory.
Who cares if he was unpopular? While it was terribly unfair that he became the enemy in the drama that played out toward the end of the dynasty, he still has that banner hanging after his death at the age of 77 on Tuesday.
The banner says it all, and it does for Dallas Green as well.
Confused? Don’t blame you.
Above Wrigley Field there are flags which fly for the achievements of Cubs teams of the past. There are a number of them up there from years before 2015, symbolizing the team’s runs to the playoffs.
Any fan will notice a major gap in some of the years – particularly from 1946 till 1983. It’s not 108 years, but the 39-years which the Cubs failed to take part in the playoffs represented some of the lowest eras of the franchise.
Dallas Green finally helped to put another banner up there.
The Cubs general manager, who died at the age of 82 on Wednesday, had a lot to do with the fundamental change of the Cubs organization after four decades of playoff-less seasons.
Brought in before the 1982 along with the new ownership of the Tribune Company, Green immediately began to put together a winning team in his own way. He traded for Ryne Sandberg and Larry Bowa in the same deal while also picking up former Phillies Bob Denier, Gary Matthews and others that contributed to the strong early 1980s Philadelphia teams he managed.
Some people didn’t like that he was bringing the Phillies west. Don’t remember that far back, see Lee Elia’s famous rant.
But Green wasn’t afraid to do what he had to do to win. That was what was important and indeed the Cubs’ finally won.
September 24, 1984 will remain an iconic day for the franchise forever after a win over the Pirates clinched the team’s first championship of any kind since the 1945 pennant. Another acquisition from Green, Rick Sutcliffe, pitched a complete game to bring long suffering Cubs fans something to cheer about.
A “1984” pennant still flies at Wrigley Field and will even after the team’s title in 2016.
Another flag, one for the 1989 teams for the N.L. East Championship, was a lot of his doing even if his status with the organization led to his resignation after the 1987 season. Key contributors to that team like Shawon Dunston, Mark Grace and future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux were acquired under his watch.
After that, banners were added for playoff appearances in 1998, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2015 and now 2016. In the 33 years since that 1984 team, the Cubs have appeared in the playoffs seven times after having zero in the 39 previous years. Someone had to start it off, and the bold moves of Green made it happen.
General mangers usually get a lot of scorn for their failures. This week, Jerry and Dallas get praise together that the probably deserved earlier. But they’ll always have those banners, no matter what anyone might say before or after.