There used to be a T-shirt popular among the fans who flock to Florida and Arizona for spring training. Printed on the front was the slogan: Baseball Is Life.
That's absurd, of course. But even though who wins or loses a baseball game doesn't mean a damn compared with the myriad legitimate problems that confront the world every day, there are lessons of the game that can be applied to even the most horrific events.
That's why each morning this week, Green has donned a green windbreaker and a Panama hat and stood with manager Charlie Manuel watching the pitchers throw at the Carpenter Complex, why he tries to go about his normal routine as much as is humanly possible under these awful circumstances.
"It's helped me because you obviously sink yourself into the work and you don't see a little girl with a hole in her chest as much," he said. "So I can get through it . . . Baseball, I think, prepares you for the ups and downs of this world. But I hope nobody ever has to go through something like this. We hope we can all get through it and maybe get through it with the help of baseball."
Green was quick to point out that his grief, oppressive as it is, can't compare to what his son John and daughter-in-law Roxanna are enduring.
He also noted that John, a scout for the Dodgers, is supposed to be back at work today.
"We hope this will help the healing process," Dallas said. "[But] they're going to hurt for a long time. They're going to hurt like the devil."
He has been struck by the depth and breadth of the response. As he and his wife, Sylvia, were flying to be with their family, they thought what had happened would impact a relatively small circle. They have been stunned by the national outpouring of support.
"That little girl woke an awful lot of people up," he said. "It hit everybody. The way it happened and the fact that she was only 9 years old obviously hit a lot of people hard. It brought up the gun business and the craziness that the country seems to be going through at times.
"But she embodied what's good about kids and what's good about growing up in the United States. She wanted desperately just to be a little girl who loved doing what she did. Obviously, her interest in politics and going to that function and being in the wrong place at the wrong time hit an awful lot of people hard."
It's natural to grasp for silver linings at a time like this, human nature to try to find some hint of good in the terrible events that took place less than 6 weeks ago outside that Arizona grocery store.
"You would hope that there would be some understanding that there are crazies in this world," Green said when asked if anything positive might possibly materialize from the madness.
"I guess the one thing that I can't get through my mind, even though I'm a hunter and I love to shoot and I love to have my guns, is that I don't have a Glock and I don't have a magazine with 33 bullets in it. That doesn't make sense for me, to be able to sell those kinds of things. I guess I never thought about it until this happened. What reason is there to have those kinds of guns other than to kill people? I just don't understand that."
In some ways it doesn't seem that long ago that manager Dallas Green cajoled and bullied the 1980 Phillies to the first world championship in franchise history. But he's 76 years old now and a special assistant to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and he's keenly aware that it's likely that a dull ache of despair will be part of his existence for the rest of his life.
Christina might have become a symbol. But for Dallas and Sylvia Green, she was their princess and angel, and they were Nana and Pop-Pop.
Time will help. And so will baseball. That's why Dallas Green shows up for spring training every day. Life goes on. Baseball men understand that, no matter how devastating the loss, there's always another game tomorrow. *
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