Manuel's companion takes ups and downs in stride

Missy Martin, longtime companion of Charlie Manuel, holds a magazine she was reading during Game 1 of the NLCS.
Missy Martin, longtime companion of Charlie Manuel, holds a magazine she was reading during Game 1 of the NLCS.
Posted: October 17, 2010

It would be easy to dismiss the smartly dressed woman sitting behind home plate in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series as disinterested.

Wearing a red jacket and faux fur scarf, this woman put on her reading glasses and perused the November issue of Elle Decorating magazine during the early innings.

She didn't even stand to watch a game-tying home run by Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, didn't scream out "Chooch" with the rest of the crowd as it rose around her. She never saw the blast reach the seats.

Part of her ritual, Missy Martin explained - "To keep myself even. I'm kind of a high-strung, excitable person."

Martin has been with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel for 15 years. As much as anybody in the stands, Martin was keenly interested in the outcome of Game 1.

"I try to mimic Charlie's thinking," Martin said during the third inning Saturday night, continuing a sentence without interruption even as a Cody Ross home run gave the San Francisco Giants the early lead. "Inside, it's butterflies. It's like electricity inside."

If a game stays tight, Martin often will walk out to their truck, keeping the radio off. "I'll play Word Mole on my BlackBerry," she said. That's what she did during Game 2 of the National League division series, staying out there as the Phillies mounted their comeback. She's superstitious enough to walk out a different door from the one she entered through. ("So, so silly," she said of that ritual.) She'll listen for the sounds of the crowd to tell her how it turns out. "I want to wake up and we won."

Of tough, tough losses, "It feels like a crash."

And if it's a win?

"I have to get in [the stadium] and sing 'High Hopes,' " Martin said.

Either way, she waits for Manuel, driving home the Phillies' manager after each game. She also drops him off at the stadium every morning, usually around 11 a.m. or a little before, then returns later for the game.

Why does she drive him?

"I drive him everywhere. My opinion - he's too distracted," Martin said. "I don't think he's focused on the road. He'll talk the whole time in. His mind's always going. I think maybe he gets it all out on the way in. I just listen."

And afterward, does the conversation in the truck vary by a win or loss?

"You'd be surprised," Martin said. "You might be surprised. Success in and of itself is not what revs him. He always says, 'Watch the game. See how we won, how we lose.' He really means that."

Martin often sits with Maureen Dubee, the wife of the Phillies' pitching coach. There are times they will quietly focus all their energy on the mound, Martin said. During the season, they'll also occasionally move around the stadium. Martin enjoys sitting out in right field, listening to fans who don't know who she is. She likes the perspective of sitting in the second deck just above the Budweiser sign.

She stopped reading newspapers long ago, she said. Nancy, the usher in the Phillies' family section, often will bring her clips of stories she might like to read, and she will read them. But she figured out during Manuel's early years as Phillies manager, she said, whatever anyone wrote, "it really doesn't matter. If they say something good or bad, he isn't different."

She does appreciate interaction with fans, like the two women who get dressed up as Charlie's Angels and sit behind the third-base dugout. She recently met them. "I took their picture and put it on Facebook," Martin said.

Sitting down in those early innings, even if she's blocked by the crowd, she's watching the scoreboard the whole time. She instantly knew the Ruiz home run was out.

"I love that Liberty Bell," Martin said of the sign in center field that rings and moves after home runs.

Right after Ruiz hit it out, Roy Halladay singled. The crowd in front stayed down so she saw the whole play live. She grabbed the elbow of the person next to her.

"Oh, Roy Halladay got a hit off Lincecum," Martin said. "Wow."

She was a baseball fanatic long before Manuel came into her life. When she was growing up in Winter Haven, Fla., which was spring-training home to the Boston Red Sox, Carl Yastrzemski was her favorite player.

"I like the players who are real hard-nosed, gritty players," she said.

Lately, she's gotten into the rally towels, she said. She'll wave it before a game, and again late if she's in the stands and the right situation arises. Along with the magazine ("I'm a decorating fanatic"), Martin held her towel as she sat during Saturday's third and fourth innings. But Game 1 of the NLCS was too tight for towels. Martin knew early on that this was not going to be a laugher.

"I may go out to the truck," she said.


Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com

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