DETROIT — George Steinbrenner fired Dallas Green today and hired Bucky Dent, the 17th time the owner has changed managers since buying the New York Yankees in 1973.
Green took over the team at the start of the season and was given a two-year contract. But with the Yankees in sixth place in the American League East, Steinbrenner ordered a change.
Dent, the hero of the Yankees' 1978 miracle comeback and playoff victory over the Boston Red Sox, becomes the 10th different manager under Steinbrenner. Dent had been managing the Yankees' Class AAA Columbus team.
"We welcome Bucky, who has worked hard for this chance," Steinbrenner said. "I still consider Dallas to be a close friend."
Steinbrenner also said there will be changes in the coaching staff.
The announcement was made in Detroit, where the Yankees are playing a weekend series with the Tigers. New York beat Detroit 2-1 Thursday night in Green's last game.
The move came as a surprise to the Yankee players, who were not told of the change.
"I didn't know about it," second baseman Steve Sax said when reached in his hotel room today. "I respect Dallas and feel bad for him. It's been tough with the injuries we've had, and I thought he did a good job."
There were signs that Steinbrenner might make a move. He had stepped up public criticism of Green in the last week but insisted, "I'm still supportive of my manager and have no plans to replace him."
Green was hired Oct. 7, 1988, and seemed confident that he could work with Steinbrenner.
"I feel comfortable with the deal Mr. Steinbrenner has put together for me," Green said at the time. "Any management situation is liable to explode. I know it's part of the game."
Green could not be reached by telephone in his hotel room today, and Steinbrenner was not receiving any calls.
The Yankees won their first game of the season but lost their next seven and have been over .500 only briefly since then. They have struggled without power hitter Dave Winfield, who has not played this year, and a pitching staff that was completely revamped under Green.
The Yankees are 56-65 and 7 1/2 games behind Baltimore. New York pitchers are last in the league with a 4.54 earned run average.
Steinbrenner wanted a manager from outside the Yankees' organization and brought in the strong-willed Green, along with many of Green's favorite coaches, and promised them freedom to run the team. But that lasted only into spring training, when Steinbrenner gave contracts to aging pitchers Tommy John and Ron Guidry over Green's objections.
John, ironically, won the season opener but was ineffective later and soon was released. Guidry, trying to come back from elbow surgery, pitched poorly for Dent in the minors and retired before getting back to the majors.
Dent, whose three-run home run in the playoff against the Red Sox helped the Yankees to a 5-4 victory, led Columbus to 68-62 record despite a constant shuttling of players to the parent club.