Bringing a WorldSeries trophy to a title-starved city can do that for a guy, but CharlieManuel—national hero in Japan, hitting savant, friend to the Amish, TedWilliams and pretty much everyone in between—was a worldly man long before youever knew
They were anodd-looking pair: the middle-aged man and the senior citizen standing in themiddle of a restaurant in the Washington, D.C., Hilton having an animatedargument about the proper way to swing a baseball bat. The younger one had abuild reminiscent of Babe Ruth—bearish upper body and birdlike legs. That onewas Charlie Manuel. The older one had a face that brought to mind Ted Williams.That one was Ted Williams.
Fueled by Chivasand water, Teddy Ballgame had taken a place mat off the table and tossed itonto the floor, where it was serving as home plate. The two men, bothlefthanded, were quarreling over which hand, the top or bottom, was moreimportant. Williams was a staunch top-hand guy. Manuel, who'd put away a fewVOs, was a top-hand guy too, but only to a point. He believed the bottom handplayed a more significant role than Williams was allowing. It might not seemlike much of a distinction, but judging by the number of hours (four) anddrinks (substantially more than four) they'd killed, it was a big deal to bothof them.
On paper, thiswasn't a fair fight. Williams, perhaps the greatest hitter in baseball history,literally wrote the book on the subject: The Science of Hitting. Manuel, whobatted .198 over six major league seasons, was the hitting coach of theCleveland Indians, a team that, at the time, couldn't hit a lick. But if therewas one thing Manuel loved to do it was talk hitting, so when he bumped intohis old friend in the lobby that winter night 20 years ago, he gladly ditchedhis family—his daughter's high school choir had been invited to D.C. toparticipate in the ceremony to light the national Christmas tree—to acceptWilliams's dinner invitation.
June 21, 2009
Their debatefinally came to an end when another patron accidentally stepped on the placemat. "Get off our plate, goddammit, I'm talking about hitting,"Williams barked at the woman, effectively killing the mood. As the two men saidgood night, Williams paid Manuel as big a compliment as he was perhaps capableof giving. "You know something, Meat," Williams said. "I'm notsaying you're right. But I've got to think about it."
Talking withCharlie Manuel is a very pleasant, very interesting experience. The 65-year-oldmanager of the Philadelphia Phillies speaks with a thick western Virginiadrawl, and the mild stammer he had as a kid pops up from time to time when hereally gets going. His stories stem-wind, and details collide to the point thatdiagramming one of his sentences would require several of the Penn Englishdepartment's best men and an oversized blackboard. "That's what alwaysfreaks people out," says his longtime companion, Missy Martin. "He canhave times when he's talking and he gets distracted and it's not clear whathe's saying or he doesn't complete sentences or he doesn't complete a thought,and that's when you think, Geez, this guy just doesn't have it uphere."
But when thesubject turns to hitting, the stammer disappears and he gets locked in and it'salmost as if you're listening to Warren Buffett on investing or Mario Batali onpasta. Manuel has the subject down cold. As a player he'd pick the brains ofguys such as Williams (whom he befriended in the early 1970s when the Splinterwas managing the Washington Senators and the Texas Rangers and Manuel was anoutfielder with the Minnesota Twins) and hitting gurus Charley Lau and WallyMoses. He'd talk to opposing pitchers. "I've read every hitting book that'sbeen put out," Manuel says. None have influenced him as much as The Scienceof Hitting. He first bought it at a Twin Cities bookstore shortly after it wasreleased in 1970, and a dog-eared copy can be found in each bathroom in theWinter Haven, Fla., house he shares with Martin so that he can revisit it whennature calls. "Might read a page, might read a chapter, might read two orthree chapters of it," Manuel says. "I've more or less memorizedit."
Of course,memorizing a book on hitting doesn't make someone a great hitting coach. Manuelrose through the ranks because he can take what he's picked up and teach otherpeople—often young men who think they already know how to hit—to apply it. As aminor league manager and hitting instructor in the Indians' system, he helpeddevelop Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle and Carlos Baerga. His prize pupil was JimThome, who was an opposite-field slap hitter with little pop when they met.Manuel taught him to pull the ball and use his natural strength. "Noquestion, he's played the biggest part in my success," says Thome, who hashit 552 home runs in his 19-year career. "He knows mechanics, but thebiggest thing Charlie does is teach guys when they get in the box to berelentless. He gets them believing in themselves. Being a hitting instructor isa difficult job because you've got to be friends with your guys, but you'vealso got to be tough. You've got to be able to sit down and talk to them aftera game in the hotel bar and breed confidence in them."
That's one ofManuel's great strengths, his hotel-bar demeanor. It's where he becomes Ol'Cholly—and nobody doesn't like Ol' Cholly, conveyor of Appalachian witticismsand giver of nicknames. (Often something like Buffalo Head or Medicine BallFace.) Oh, he's country, unabashedly so. He's at ease in his skin no matterwhere he is. Drop him in a bar, and he'll come out an hour later with three newbuddies. Accidentally drop him in the KFC next door, and he'll probably comeout with three new buddies and a working knowledge of deep fryers. "He'sgot an eclectic group of friends, to say the least," says one of them,former pro wrestler and onetime Memphis mayoral candidate Jerry (the King)Lawler. (The King, who grew up in the Cleveland suburbs, is a die-hard Indiansfan; Manuel is a serious pro wrestling buff.)
Such a network offriends is nice for your Facebook profile, but it can be dangerous if you're amajor league manager. Early in 2007, with the Phillies off to a 3--9 start,Philadelphia talk-radio host Howard Eskin called out Manuel at a postgame pressconference for going too easy on his team, for being too much of a players'manager. Manuel responded by inviting Eskin into his office for a firsthanddemonstration of just how mad he could get.
"Charlie'sjust an old country boy," says former pitcher Clyde Wright, himself an oldcountry boy who has known Manuel for more than 30 years. "He can talk topeople without pissing them off. He can tell people how he wants it done, andthey listen. Now, if they don't listen, Charlie can get the ass every now andthen. He can put people in their place." And that's what Manuelcommunicated to Eskin as the two men screamed at each other behind closeddoors. All his life he'd been winning over people from all walks of life on twocontinents. But he'd also done his share of fighting.
They were anodd-looking pair: the burly American ballplayer and the little half-gaijin whofollowed him everywhere he went. Luigi Forenza was born in Japan to an Italianfather and a Japanese mother. One of his friends at the international highschool in Tokyo had been Don Nomura, the son of Nankai Hawks slugger KatsuyaNomura. Since Luigi spoke English as well as Japanese, the elder Nomura got hima job as a translator for Americans playing in Japan's Central League.
Luigi was workingfor the Yakult Swallows in 1976 when the Tokyo-based team signed Manuel for$100,000 a year, or five times what he was making sitting on the Dodgers'bench. His major league career had begun with the Twins in 1969. After a hotstart in his rookie season—he was hitting .311 after his first 26 games—hebroke his left ankle, and his playing time and batting average went south.Manuel found himself called on for three things: pinch-hitting, milking theoccasional cow in pregame p.r. stunts and helping manager Billy Martinentertain his drinking buddy Mickey Mantle when the recently retired sluggerwas in town. ("You won't be playing tomorrow," Martin assured Manuelbefore sending him out into the night with the Mick.)
Manuel bouncedbetween the bigs and the minors, throwing up gaudy numbers on the farm (.372with 19 homers in 225 Triple A plate appearances in '71) and routinely puttingon a show in batting practice. While the 6'4" 200-pounder couldn't hit theawesome pitching he saw at the major league level, he certainly could crush thehalf-decent pitching in the Japan leagues. Manuel arrived in the Far Eastunsure of what to expect. He was greeted at the Tokyo airport by Luigi, who ledhim into a small room packed with 100 print and TV reporters. "I was kindapetrified," says Manuel, never the object of much interest from the mediain his major league career.
From there, thesituation got only more surreal. After a short flight to Kogoshima Island, hetook a two-hour ride on a pink bus to his hotel room near the Swallows'practice facility. After three hours of something approximating sleep on afuton, he was up at 5:30 for breakfast. "Seaweed and these eggs where apart of the shell is cut off, and they're about half-cooked," he says."And I had some rice over here. I couldn't eat breakfast." Then it wasback on the pink bus with his teammates for a short hop to the practice field,which could be reached only by climbing 169 steps up a hill. His teammatessprinted up. Manuel made it to 39 before he started walking. Practice—formationrunning, crawling around under ropes and plenty of hitting—ended when it wasdark; then it was back on the bus for the return to the hotel. Jet-lagged,sleepy and sore, Manuel, still in his uniform, collapsed onto his futon. Luigiand Roger Repoz, a former Yankee who was an outfielder for the Swallows, triedto revive him by carrying him off to the hotel's public bath and stripping him,whereupon Manuel quickly dozed off in a corner.
When he awoke ashort time later, Manuel discovered he was no longer alone. About 40 Japanesewomen had arrived for their postwork baths. No one in the room was wearing astitch of clothing. "It was almost like I was dreaming," he says. Hequickly realized he wasn't. The women, most of whom hadn't seen an American upclose, were intrigued—especially by the hair on his arms, which they insistedon touching. After they left, Repoz and Luigi returned to take Manuel back tohis room, where Ol' Cholly's first day in Japan finally came to an end.
Manuel eventuallygrew acclimated to the Japanese life. He, Repoz and Clyde Wright, who pitchedfor the Tokyo Giants, enjoyed the kind of nights on the town that Bill Murrayand Scarlett Johansson had in Lost in Translation, usually with poor Luigi intow. Most memorable was the time they tried to protect the honor of a woman whowas being hassled in a bar by a group of men who turned out to be the EastGerman national hockey team. "Oh, good God, we got the s--- beat out ofus," says Wright, who was given the nickname Crazy Wright-o by theJapanese. "Hockey players are tough."
Japanese fanstook to the gruff Americans, but the homegrown players were less enamored. Inthe 1970s signing gaijin, or foreigners, was still a relatively new practice inJapan, and they were often shunned by their teammates, who viewed them asmercenaries. Manuel didn't do his best to foster diplomatic relations; heroutinely broke taboos, calling his coaches by their first names or lettingthem know what he thought of being asked to run sprints in 100° weather sixhours before game time. Any argument went through Luigi, who had troubletranslating some of Manuel's bluer rants. "I really couldn't find any wordsto translate," says Luigi, whom Manuel took to calling the Sandwich Manbecause he was always stuck in the middle. (After a choppy start, Manuel andLuigi became close; they still keep in touch.)
The coldshoulders from their teammates were downright hospitable compared with theAmericans' treatment by opposing pitchers and umpires. "If you ever got inthe top 10 in any stat, you just knew that you weren't going to get a pitch tohit, and you were going to get called out on balls a foot outside," saysChris Arnold, a former San Francisco Giant who played two seasons with Manuelin Japan. And Manuel, after a disappointing first season, was regularly in thetop 10 in a lot of stats. "He had a Japanese umpire come up to him and tellhim in English, 'Charlie, you are big and strong, so I have to help them,'"says Repoz. "He was telling him straight up, 'Anything close, you better beswinging.'"
Out of necessity,Manuel became a spectacular bad-ball hitter. "Here's a typical at bat,"says Arnold. "The first pitch, he'd bail out, and he'd still have tojackknife it because the ball would be right at his ribs. The next pitch wouldbe a foot outside, and they'd call that a strike. Then they'd come back insideanother 12 inches, and he'd step back. Then he'd turn to me and say, 'Watchthis.' I can't tell you how many times he called his own shot. I'm telling you,it was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. I played with Hall of Famers. Iplayed with Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Gaylord Perry. But I've never seenanything in my life like what Charlie Manuel did on a daily basis."
When pitchingaround Manuel didn't work, teams occasionally pitched at him. "They broughtguys out of the minor leagues to hit Charlie, because they knew if they hithim, he was going to go out and beat the crap out of them," says Arnold.One pitcher escaped his fate by running into centerfield and jumping over thefence. It was all kind of funny, the redheaded, red-faced Yank chasing littlepitchers all over the park, until one midsummer afternoon in 1979.
Before the startof the 1979 season Manuel was traded to the Kintetsu Buffaloes. Around 3 p.m.in a June 19 game against the Lotte Orions the sun was just starting to duckbehind the light standards, casting a checkerboard of shadows between the moundand the plate. Lotte pitcher Soroku Yagisawa threw a fastball up and in. Manuelnever saw it. As upsetting as the sight of a friend getting hit flush in theface was, the sound is what sticks with Arnold, who was standing in the on-deckcircle. "It was the most sickening sound you ever heard," he says.
Manuel wasleading the league in homers at the time and believes that Yagisawa hit him onpurpose. "They were throwing at me," says Manuel. "They threw at mea lot." His jaw was broken and had to be wired shut. He was told he'd misseight weeks, but with the Buffaloes in the running for their first PacificLeague pennant, he was back in two. Playing with a face mask bolted to hisbatting helmet and wearing the screws that had come out of his jaw in a bottleon a chain around his neck—if a pitch came near his head, he'd pull out thenecklace and shake the bottle at the pitcher—Manuel finished the year with 37homers and a .324 average in 333 at bats. The Buffaloes won the Pacific League.When Manuel retired two years, 60 homers and one pennant later, he hadn't justsurvived in Japan, he had become a full-fledged folk hero: Aka Oni. The RedDevil.
"Charlie madeit possible [for Americans in Japan]," says Arnold. "The Japanese gavein to him. There was nothing they could do to stop him, so they just startedaccepting that Americans can have something to offer."
Years later, whenManuel was hired as skipper in Philadelphia, another ex-gaijin, Marty Brown,told him, "You and I both played in Japan. If you can take that, you cantake managing the Phillies."
They were anodd-looking pair: the novice manager and Big John, the heavysetAfrican-American groundskeeper. Odder still was that they were talking during agame, when the manager presumably had other things to deal with.
But CharlieManuel's Orlando Twins were getting pasted 7--0 at home by the Charlotte O'searly in a one-game playoff to decide the 1984 Southern League Eastern Divisionsecond-half race, and he had to do something. As the storm clouds rolled in,Manuel called Big John down for a talk. A short while later the heavens opened.The game hadn't gone five innings, so a rainout meant they'd have to go backand start all over. In the O's dugout manager John Hart was hollering for thetarp. One problem: The grounds crew was nowhere to be seen. "What Charliedid," says Hart, "he gave the groundskeeper a hundred dollars and abottle of Jack Daniels, and the grounds crew disappeared."
Not true, saysManuel, "I gave him $50 and told him to go buy him some wine." Eitherway, with the field under water, Southern League president Jimmy Bragan had nochoice but to call the game, giving the Twins another chance. (The O's won therematch.)
The cagey movewith Big John notwithstanding, Manuel was, by his own admission, no mastertactician. He took a job as a scout for the Twins when he got back from Japan.In 1983 he was hired as the manager of the Single A Wisconsin Rapids. "Iknew nothing," says Manuel. "I thought I knew baseball because I played20 years. But the only thing I knew was how to play rightfield and how to hit.I didn't know how to stop double steals, how to set defenses, how to use apitching staff...." His bunt sign entailed squaring around and saying,"Bunt." A typical pregame talk consisted of Manuel pointing to thecowboy on the giant cigarette ad out in deep right center and asking hisplayers, "O.K., who's gonna knock the d— off the Marlboro Mantoday?"
Many days it wasManuel himself. "I'd take batting practice and hit right along withthem," he says. "That was the fun. I'd tell the guys, 'I got back inthis game so I could take BP and be around the clubhouse.'" But his workwith his hitters, the one thing he most certainly knew, was getting himnoticed. So was his moxie. "Charlie got me there," says Hart of thetarp trick. "I said to myself, If I ever have a chance to hire this guy,I'm going to do it."
They were anodd-looking pair: the guy working the grill in standard-issue barbecuetogs—Bermudas and a shirt—and his guest, an Amish man in traditional Amishgarb. Manuel met Marty Kuhns and his family in 2000, by which time he hadbecome the manager of the Cleveland Indians. Charlie and Missy were visitingthe Amish country in Charm, Ohio, 90 miles south of Cleveland during theAll-Star break. They quickly realized from the steady buggy traffic outsidetheir cottage that the Amish were serious about the Tribe.
Marty and hiswife, Suzy, arranged for Missy's daughters to go horseback riding, and thefamilies became fast friends. When the Kuhnses visited Florida with anotherAmish couple that fall, Charlie and Missy had them over to their winter housefor a cookout. It wasn't the kind of thing you saw every day in Winter Havenbackyards: the visiting men in black hats and beards, the women in blackdresses and pinafores. But to Manuel it was just like any other cookout."They can eat," says Manuel of what he learned from his guests."Hot dogs, Italian sausage.... They really can eat."
Manuel wasalready a celebrity in northern Ohio when Hart, who was then Cleveland's G.M.,made good on his promise and hired Manuel as the Indians' manager following the1999 season. He fired Mike Hargrove, a close friend, so he could installManuel, who since '94 had been in his second stint as the Tribe's hittingcoach. Immediately it seemed as though someone was trying to tell Hart he'dmade a mistake.
Manuel hadalready suffered three heart attacks, the first in 1991, the last in '98, thesame year Missy was found to have breast cancer. "Ninety-eight was prettybad," says Missy. "Two thousand was like, Oh, my gosh, not somethingelse." Manuel was like a patient on House; just when everything seemedfixed, another malady would pop up. In February 2000 he had surgery fordiverticulitis, during which doctors discovered a cancerous tumor in one of hiskidneys. Manuel's major league managerial debut was far from the way he'dimagined it: Under his baggy jersey was a colostomy bag. That didn't stop himfrom getting ejected from two of his first three games. (He later threw BPwhile wearing the bag, which was finally removed that May.)
The medicalmisfortune continued the next year: colon surgery in August to remove scartissue, which led to a gall bladder infection. On a trip to Seattle, Manuel wasvomiting so violently in the clubhouse that he was taken to the emergency room.When the Indians clinched the division, Manuel was in a hospital bed inCleveland.
Hart left theIndians following the 2001 season, and with the team in a rebuilding mode, hisreplacement, Mark Shapiro, wanted his own man. Manuel was fired in July '02. Heresurfaced in Philly, first as a special assistant to the general manager in'03, then as the team's manager two years later. That appointment was met withbemusement in Philly, where the phrase "turnip truck" was bandied aboutliberally by the city's fans. It was quite a story: Ol' Cholly in the toughestsports town in America. They were going to eat him up.
"That's whatwe always laugh about," says Missy. "It's not any tougher [inPhiladelphia] than how he grew up."
They were anodd-looking pair: the tall, lanky kid and his undersized best friend. Mutt andJeff, they called them at Parry McCluer High in Buena Vista, Va. The taller onealso went by Fook, a truncated version of his middle name: Charles Fuqua ManuelJr. The shorter one was Dickie Lewis. The two did everything together in theirhometown, which lies two hours west of Richmond. Buena Vista is a blue-collarmining and factory town in the middle of Scots-Irish country, and like mostsuch places, it's populated by people who work too hard to give a damn aboutsparing others' feelings. Philadelphians are known for booing Santa Claus;Kringle would probably get much worse were he to incur the wrath of BuenaVistans.
"BuenaVista"— the locals pronounce it bee-YOO-na vista—"is the kind ofcommunity that will tell you where to go in about 30 seconds," says CharlieKurtz, who coached Manuel in baseball and football at Parry McCluer. "Ifyou were behind, there would be a queue of people to tell you that you were thedumbest sonofabitch that ever coached a football game. They let you have itright then and there."
Manuel didn'tcare too much about football. He was an end, Lewis a halfback. "I ran theball around his end one time, and the guy came in there and just creamedme," says Lewis. "Charlie looked back and said, 'If I'd have known thatwas you back there, I'd have blocked for you.'"
Basketball andbaseball, those were Manuel's true loves. If he couldn't find anyone to playwith him, he'd hit rocks with a board by himself on a field he lined with limetaken from the mine where his grandfather worked. Or he'd shoot hoops on thebasket outside the church, calling the action—"Fook in for two!"—to thedismay of the preacher, who on at least one occasion was conducting a funeralin the church with the windows open.
The preacher alsohappened to be Manuel's father, Charles Sr. Preacher Manuel, as he was known,was, in the words of his son, "a fire-and-brimstone kind of guy," aPentecostal Holiness minister who, before settling in Buena Vista, traveledaround with a revival tent, opening churches in Virginia and West Virginia. Hewas well-respected as a minister, but he wasn't without his own demons. InApril 1963, shortly before Charlie graduated from high school, Preacher Manuelconnected a hose to the exhaust pipe of his car and killed himself. He left anote for Charlie, telling him to take care of his mother, June, and his 10siblings.
Charlie alreadyhad a family of his own to support. He had a wife and son and was working thegraveyard shift, before school and baseball practice, at a lumber mill. (Manuelhas been divorced twice.) Any thoughts he entertained about going to college ona basketball scholarship were gone. When the Twins offered him a $20,000 bonusthat summer, he took it and gave a chunk to his mother, who was living on $117a month from her husband's veteran's pension. A couple of months after heburied his father—he made it to his high school baseball game following theceremony and hit the longest homer Kurtz ever saw him hit—he was in Wytheville,Va., playing for the Twins' rookie league team, his first step on the long roadto Philadelphia.
They were anodd-looking pair: the Phillies' manager and, well, just about every individualwho came near him. It was a Thursday morning in January, a preseason meet andgreet with a group of the team's season-ticket holders, and there was a rolereversal going on. The businessmen, the guys who should have been at work inpressed shirts and ties, were wearing Phillies jerseys, and Manuel, a man witha body made for double knit, was in a sharp navy pinstripe suit. Somehow he hadaccidentally tucked the coat into his pants, but no one seemed to mind. Hestill looked dapper, and he had, three months earlier, delivered to the cityits second World Series title in 125 years of baseball.
Some days duringthe championship season Manuel had applied a gentle touch. On Aug. 28Philadelphia was a half game behind the Mets and had a 4--1 lead on the Cubs atWrigley Field. Manuel brought in setup man Ryan Madson to pitch the eighthinning, and the 28-year-old righty gave up three runs without retiring a batterin a 6--4 loss. Afterward Manuel summoned Madson into his office. "Ithought, Oh, man," says Madson. But instead of getting ripped, he got this:"Sometimes those Louisville Sluggers are going to talk to you a littlebit," Manuel said with a chuckle. And that was it. From that point untilthe end of the season, Madson had an 18-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and hisERA was 0.63.
Other days, Ol'Cholly got the ass. When reigning MVP Jimmy Rollins didn't run out a pop-up inJune, Manuel benched him. When Rollins showed up late to Shea Stadium for a keyJuly game with the Mets, he was benched again. The message got through; J-Rollwas a model citizen down the stretch as the Phillies made their run to theplayoffs.
In the pressconference after Philadelphia had beaten the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 to wrapup the World Series, a Japanese reporter asked Manuel to discuss thecontributions of seldom-used outfielder So Taguchi. It was the type of questionthat makes deadline reporters blanch; there's only time for so many questions,and no one wants to see one wasted on the 25th man on a 25-man roster. Still,Manuel launched into a typically rambling answer, one that for a few minutessounded as if it might have been in response to a completely differentquestion.
In the end,though, the answer was quintessentially Manuelesque. Not just because itrambled but because of what it revealed about the speaker. The way he couldspin a yarn that would entertain but eventually come around and make a point.The way he knows just what to say to his players. His self-deprecation. Hisaffinity for Japan. The underlying sweetness of it all.
"Youknow," Manuel said, "when I was a player and I was telling somebody—Itell stories all the time, and I was telling somebody the other day about BillyMartin, like I remember one time I got in an argument with him because againsta lefthand pitcher he sat Tony Oliva and Rod Carew. Rod Carew was leading theleague in hitting. Tony Oliva was one of the game's best hitters. It came timeto pinch-hit like in the eighth or ninth inning, the only time I ever hit waswhen we were losing the game. He put me up to hit, and I struck out. I cameback, and he said something to me, and I looked at him and I said, 'What thehell are you hitting me for, you got Oliva and Carew sitting here.' He said, 'Iknow you can pull the ball. I know you would get the runner over. That's why Isent you up there, and that's your job.'
"And Ithought to myself, Well, he's got a lot of faith in me. He's got a lot ofconfidence in me. Taguchi, if you notice, he was on our team the whole year. Hedidn't get to play a whole lot, but I always looked at him as someone who knewhow to play. He can handle a bat, he can make contact in the game. Like when Isent him up there, he didn't strike out much. He can run the bases and steal abase now and then. And the things he could do fit for the National League. Likeon our team with the outfielders we had and the ones that we played, it washard for him to get playing time.
"That doesn'tmean that he's not a good player, and that doesn't mean that he's not part ofour team, because he was. And I used to tell him that a lot. And I still feelthat same way."
Two days later hewas speaking to a much bigger crowd—the 40,000 who had packed into LincolnFinancial Field as part of the victory parade through Philadelphia. "Idon't doubt this is the damn biggest parade I've ever been in in my life,"Manuel gushed. It was funny. Philly was supposed to be the roughest test he'dface, but really, how bad had it been? No family tragedy. No culture shock. Nocolostomy bag. Just some tough fans, and they were all now chanting his name.They're so enamored of their team and their manager that two weeks ago Manuelturned the tables, taking the fans to task for being too easy on thefirst-place Phils, who through Sunday were 23--9 on the road but just 13--16 athome.
How long will theunlikely love affair last? Who knows? Manuel isn't the type to sweat what thefuture holds. Whatever happens, he'll be able to deal with it. So he'll just goon meeting each day the same way he always has. Ready to win over people. Readyto fight.
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"That's what we always laugh about," saysMissy. "It's not any tougher in Philly than how Charlie grew up."
When Manuel retired, he hadn't just survived in Japan,he'd become a folk hero: Aka Oni. The Red Devil.
"The biggest thing Charlie does is teach guys tobe relentless," says Thome. "He gets them believing inthemselves."