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February 16, 2011 at 9:31 AM

Still-grieving Dallas Green remembers his 9-year-old granddaughter, murdered in Tucson rampage

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(Phillies special assistant Dallas Green watches a workout this week in Clearwater, Fla. Photo by McClatchy Newspapers).

By now, most people know the baseball connection to the horrifyingly tragic situation in Tucson in January, in which a gunman shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six people. One of those killed was 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, whose father, John Green, is a Dodgers scout, and whose grandfather, Dallas Green, is a legendary baseball lifer who pitched in the majors, managed the Phillies to their first World Series title in 1980, later managed both the Mets and Yankees, and also had a stint as general manager of the Cubs.

Now Dallas Green is a special advisor for the Phillies, but mostly he is a grandpa and dad, mourning for his granddaughter, trying to support his son’s family, and struggling to make sense of the senseless.

Today, for about 20 minutes, he conducted one of the most poignant press gatherings I’ve ever been a part of. A big bear of a man, still in good shape at age 76, Green is obviously still in deep emotional pain. At one point, as his voice broke, he said, “You know, I’m supposed to be a tough sucker, but I’m not very tough when it comes to this, so I apologize.”

(Photo of Christina Green from Associated Press)

About 25 reporters talked to Green outside the Phillies complex here in Clearwater, Florida. He actually began with an apology for not getting back to reporters who had contacted him after the shooting.

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He said, “Obviously, dealing with something like this is difficult enough for me and my wife, but it’s been a terrible thing on John and Roxanna and Little D (referring to his son, daughter-in-law and grandson, Dallas Jr.).

“You all know what has happened with Christina. I don’t think Sylvia (Dallas Green’s wife) nor I, in our wildest dreams as we were flying out to Tucson, realized that it would hit the nation and the community as hard as it did. We thought it was just our family and our neighborhood out in Tucson. But that little girl woke an awful lot of people up. We just miss the hell out of her.

“Obviously, I’m prejudiced, because she was my granddaughter. But she has become known to an awful lot of people in the country. Most of what has been written about her or said about her obviously is very true. She was really a special young lady, probably older than her years. She and her brother were very, very close. Christina was kind of the mom, as much as Roxanna was, to little Dallas. Made sure he got on the bus right, made sure he got to the karate classes on time. I was really blessed, John and Roxanna and Christina and Dallas came down to Providenciales (where the elder Greens have a winter home in the Caribbean) for Christmas, and we had some great quality time down there. She loved the water, she loved just being down in Providenciales with her Nana and Poppa. We had a great time.”

Green, as mentioned, was stunned by the national outpouring of grief surrounding Christina’s death.

“It hit everybody,” he said. “The way it happened and the fact she was only nine years old obviously hit a lot of people hard. It brought up the gun business and the craziness 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 that 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.”

In an especially emotional moment, Green spoke of the neighbor who had brought Christina to the meeting with constituents of Rep. Giffords at a grocery store parking lot where the shooting took place. She did so because of Christina’s burgeoning interest in politics, having recently been elected to the student council as a third-grader at Mesa Verde Elementary School. The woman, who had developed a close friendship with Christina, was shot but survived.

“God bless the lady that took her,” Green said. “She took three bullets and tried to protect Christina. Couldn’t do it. But she was just a wonderful person for the family and for Christina. We’ll never forget her. I know she’s going through her own hell. But she shouldn’t, because Christina would have wanted to go, did want to go, and wanted to be part of that. They were buddies, as much as they could be with their difference in ages. We send her our best, obviously, always.”

Staying involved with his baseball duties has been therapeutic, Green said, but it can only help so much.

“You sink yourself into the work and you don’t see a little girl with a hole in her chest as much,” he said. “I get through it, but John’s going to hurt like the devil for a long time.”

Dallas said he was deeply proud of his son’s eulogy at Christina’s funeral.

“To be able to stand up and talk about his daughter, the way he did at the funeral, was unbelievable,” he said. “Roxanna has been a rock. I know how desperate she feels. Little D is back in action. John took him to his Little League game the other day. He missed the first ground ball. Hit him right in the face. But John said, “I was proud of him, Dad. He caught the next four and threw them to first.” They’re a tough family, and yet they’re a loving family. They’re going to hurt for a long time.”

Asked what positive he hoped camed out of Christina’s death, he said, “I’m not sure anything can really come of it, even though we just talked of living in the United States and how important it is to understand it’s still the best country in the world to live in. You would hope that there would be some understanding that there are crazies in this world.

“I guess the one thing 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, I don’t have a Glock or whatever it is, 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 kind of things. I guess I never thought about it until this happened. What reason is there to have those kind of guns other than to kill people? And I just don’t understand that.”

Christina, he said, was a pretty good baseball player, the only girl on her Little League team.

“Christina was a star on her team, if you talk to her about it. She said she was going to be the first major-league gal. That’s 9 years old. But she was pretty good. I did see her swing the bat a couple of times. John said she’s not a bad little player, for nine years old.

“John called her princess, and I did, too. She was our angel.”

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