'Humbled' Manuel honored by Phillies

Charlie Manuel acknowledges the fans during the pregame ceremony at Citizens Bank Park. The manager of the 2008 World Series champions spoke for six minutes.
Charlie Manuel acknowledges the fans during the pregame ceremony at Citizens Bank Park. The manager of the 2008 World Series champions spoke for six minutes. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 11, 2014

Charlie Manuel descended a temporary staircase installed at center field inside Citizens Bank Park, and the man fired by the Phillies less than a year ago owned the building one more time. This was vindication. He shook the hands of executives who oversaw his demise. He greeted the players who ultimately failed him. He smiled at fans who once labeled him a West Virginia hick.

They chanted his name. Charlie! Charlie! Charlie! They laughed when he spoke for six minutes while a baseball game was delayed 45 minutes to honor him. They waved at him as he circled the field for five minutes in a white Toyota convertible.

Manuel, the winningest manager in the 132-year-old franchise's history, became this city's uncle. He reemerged Saturday as a humbled inductee onto the team's Wall of Fame.

"Believe me, I hope you don't think I'm bragging," Manuel, 70, said at a news conference before the ceremony. "I can't believe all the people that hugged me. Really. Seriously. It's unreal. I'd stop sometime, I'd see women, men, young boys, young women, kids - you might not believe it. It just kind of sets me back. I would say, 'Why would somebody want to do that?' "

He thanked everyone, and most of them were present to reciprocate. He shook the hands of team executives, grounds-crew members, clubhouse attendants, medical personnel, coaches, and players. They flanked a red carpet that led Manuel to a stage near the mound.

Former general manager Pat Gillick cried. Current general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., booed when shown on the scoreboard, hugged Manuel. Jim Thome unveiled Manuel's plaque. Roy Halladay presented a replica to Manuel.

"It's an honor," Manuel said in his speech. "I'm humbled. I never go looking for awards. I never thought I'd receive a reward. If I do something good and they want to give me something, I'll take it."

Manuel did not prepare remarks - a staple of his spring-training speeches that launched every new season. He referenced a "parade down Broadway" in a classic Charlie-ism, but concluded with his reenactment of a famous moment from 2008. "This is for Philadelphia!" he yelled, as he raised his right arm.

The Phillies were 52-64 under Manuel through 116 games last season. (He was fired Aug. 16 with a 53-67 record.) They entered Saturday's game, guided this season by Ryne Sandberg, with that exact mark. Manuel, who looked fitter and healthier Saturday, has traversed the lower levels of baseball as a Phillies senior adviser.

"In other words, I kind of went from the top and had to start back over," Manuel said at the news conference. "But it's all right, it happens sometimes."

When the season started without Manuel in a major-league dugout, he found it difficult.

"I was definitely missing it," he said. "I would get up every morning at 4:30, fix myself a cup of coffee, and sit in a little room by myself. I'd drink a couple of cups of coffee and I couldn't do anything else, so I would go back in there and turn the television on, trying to go back to sleep.

"I missed being around the clubhouse more than even the games. I missed the guys. I missed talking to them."

Manuel asked Rich Dubee, his longtime pitching coach, to stand during the speech. Dallas Green, the franchise's other World Series-winning manager, introduced Manuel. Green, now an adviser, helped hire Manuel while part of the team's screening committee in 2004.

"When he looked Ed Wade in the eyes and said, 'Ed, I want to be the Phillies manager,' I knew we had a good guy," Green said.

Manuel marveled at how short his nine seasons as Phillies manager felt in retrospect. The reason, he said, was the precious time to cherish winning while in that moment.

"It seems it goes so fast," Manuel said. "It seems you always have tomorrow to take care of. You're just there to focus on what you're trying to do."

That, his players said, was what made Manuel so sharp behind the scenes. He targeted the sum of his energy toward winning that day's game. Now, baseball paused for him. He treasured it.

"I'm going to shut up," Manuel said to the crowd, "because I want to see the game."


mgelb@phillynews.com

@MattGelb www.inquirer.com/

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