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Cubs' Green Begins Another Search for Manager

September 27, 1987|RANDY MINKOFF | United Press International

CHICAGO — Dallas Green has tried just about everything -- short of consulting a crystal ball -- to find the right manager for the Chicago Cubs.

First he hired a friend, then he hired an enemy. He even tried to let his fingers do the walking.

But after more than five years in Chicago, Green is again in the market for a new manager. This time, he figures to take his time.

Green was set to fire Gene Michael at the end of the season, but Michael announced Sept. 8 that he didn't want to come back next year.

"I didn't want to come back under the circumstances," Michael said, making a back-handed reference to the continuing problems he had with Green during his brief tenure.

Frank Lucchesi was tabbed as interim manager, but he does not regard himself candidate for next year's job.

"I'll lay you 8-5 that I'm not one," says Lucchesi, who nonetheless has taken an active role in his 25-game stint with the Cubs this September.

Michael was chosen in haste after Green dumped former National League manager of the year Jim Frey in June, 1986.

Frey, who managed against Green in the 1980 World Series when Frey was with the Kansas City Royals and Green was with the Phillies, had been a surprise choice as Cubs skipper in 1984. And he surprised a lot of people by leading the Cubs to their first division title.

"It was part of the business," Frey said of his firing. "I didn't leave under bad circumstances. It's just that when you manage, not only in Chicago but anywhere, you have to sooner or later expect to be fired."

When the Cubs faltered last year, Green went looking for a manager. He said he glanced through the Red and Green books, the American League and National League guides, and came up with Michael's name -- an unorthodox way of choosing a man to lead your team.

"Gene had come highly recommended to us," Green said, defending his choice. "It wasn't just picking a name out of a hat."

Lee Elia, now manager of the Phillies, was Green's original choice for manager six years ago. A friend and former working associate of Green, Elia never was successful on the field with the Cubs.

There have been some other interim managers: Charlie Fox, an old crony of Green's, and John Vukovich, currently the club's third base coach and a leading contender for manager next year.

Green didn't want to put any undue pressure on Vukovich by selecting him to be interim manager. But there are some sneaking suspicions Green may not be all that enamored with Vukovich.

He bypassed Vukovich last year when he dumped Frey. Green also could have dumped Michael last winter -- the two were at odds then -- and chosen Vukovich to manage this season.

"He just told me that under the circumstances, it was his belief to go with Frank and I understand that," Vukovich said of the interim position. "Was I surprised? I don't know if that is fair. I do want to manage this club and I'm a candidate. I haven't talked to Dallas any more about it. He says he wants to wait until the winter meetings and I can live with that."

Johnny Oates, a Cubs' coach, and Billy Williams, who is managing in the Cubs' instructional league this winter, also are candidates.

Oates hasn't managed in the majors and, despite some pressure from civil rights groups, Williams is a longshot for the Cubs' job.

"I want to manage and I don't think I need to go to the minors first," Williams said. "I'm ready right now and I want the opportunity to do it with the Cubs."

Given all of that, Green could fall into the warp zone and consider those familiar names of managers who have worked elsewhere. Pat Corrales and even Los Angeles Dodgers' Manager Tommy Lasorda, who loves the pasta and deep dish pizza in Chicago, are being mentioned. Former major league infielder Denis Menke's name also cropped up.

Corrales confirmed he has applied. Lasorda has listed the Cubs as one of the few teams he would consider going to as a manager if he doesn't get more authority in a general manager's role with the Dodgers.

Whatever Green decides, he figures to take more time to announce his choice than he has in the past.

"We'll announce it and give you guys (the media) plenty of notice," Green says. "We want to evaluate the entire situation and then we'll make a choice."

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