"I'm mad because they took the best seat in the house away from me," Manuel joked during his farewell news conference. "And I've been sitting there watching the games every day, watching the Phillies play, something that I love. I'll just leave it right there. That's how I feel about it. I enjoyed everything about it."
It took some time for Philadelphians to understand and appreciate his understated contributions. But during the memorable Broad Street parade that capped that 2008 season, it was Manuel who received the day's loudest ovation. Along the route fans, far more accustomed to calling for a manager's head, chanted his name reverently.
"CHAR-LIE! CHAR-LIE! CHAR-LIE!"
It was a scene that would have been unthinkable here on Nov. 4, 2004, when the new manager was portrayed as the second coming of Roy Rubin, the hapless 76ers coach whose surprise hiring in 1972 culminated in the then-worst season (9-73) in NBA history.
An old-school baseball man who was fiercely loyal to his players and much tougher than his big-bellied physique implied, Manuel benefited from good timing. He had the good fortune to arrive in Philadelphia just as an exceptional crop of homegrown talent - Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels - was ripening.
To his credit, he was smart enough to get out of their way. Right to the end, Manuel stuck with his core players, rarely benching them or changing their batting-order spot when they slumped. It was, depending on who you asked and when, either a notable strength or weakeness.
A steadying presence in his clubhouse, where one collection of Phillies after another held him in high regard, he kept a much lower profile in the dugout.
Never a devotee of inside-baseball tactics like the squeeze or the double-switch, Manuel was instead a keen student of hitting, particularly power-hitting. In their prime, his Phillies consistently ranked among baseball's home-run leaders.
From his comfortable vantage point behind the batting cage, the manager absorbed the details of their swings. Then, when strokes faltered and egos needed stroking, Manuel would put an arm around their slumped shoulders and pass on the insights he had collected.
"He has a lot to do with keeping us all confident and calm at the same time," said Brad Lidge, the 2008 Phillies closer. "He made us feel great."
Initially at least, he was much less beloved beyond the ballpark's walls.
Manuel endured constant ridicule for his disjointed style of speaking.
"Don't matter if you can't understand me," Manuel once told a reporter. "Long as they [pointing to his players on the field] know what I'm talking about."
At first, many in the media and in the stands observed his country-boy persona and predicted Philadelphia would chew him up and spit him out like a stale soft pretzel.
"Charlie Manuel's thick Southern drawl, down-home nature and folksy ways make him an odd fit for gritty Philadelphia," one story noted on the day the Phils revealed that he'd beaten out a field of seven contenders that included Leyland and ex-manager Jim Fregosi.
But by the time his Phillies were in the midst of a franchise-best run of five consecutive division titles (2008-12), he had become a beloved civic figure, as much a quirky Philadelphia icon as Rocky Balboa.
It was the onetime Indians manager's longstanding relationship with Thome that led him to Philadelphia. He arrived not long after Cleveland fired him. His working title was special assistant to GM Ed Wade, but he was widely seen as the heir apparent to the volatile Bowa.
The feisty Bowa's relationship with his younger players had become a clubhouse issue and Manuel's more avuncular style was viewed as a better long-term fit for a team with such potential.
"He never has a bad day," said Pat Gillick, who replaced Wade as Phillies GM. "He keeps the players in the right frame of mind, and that is so important these days."
Manuel had a bad day on Friday, but he made one thing clear: "I didn't resign, and I did not quit," he said. "Let me tell you something. I've never quit nothing."
Contact Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or ffitzpatrick@phillynewscom. Follow on Twitter @philafitz. Read his blog, "Giving 'Em Fitz," at www.philly.com/fitz.