Who Doesn’t Love Charlie Manuel
The Phillies manager has stolen the hearts of SJ baseball fans, and for good reason.
By Marianne Aleardi

Charlie Manuel has lots of stories. Like the one about meeting Tiger Woods when the golfer was just starting his career. Manuel was at a country club and Woods was off to the side, practicing a shot where his ball would fly over trees, around a slight curve and onto the green. Manuel watched him practice this one shot for a little over half an hour.

“Then I left for almost two hours. When I came back, Tiger was still there, practicing that same shot – a shot most players wouldn’t even attempt. He was hitting the ball over and over and over.” This is where Manuel leans in to tell the moral of the story: “Some players make themselves masters of their game.”

For Charlie Manuel, managing a team to the World Series two years in a row isn’t just about hitting averages and pitching speed. It’s about mastering the game. Better yet, it’s about inspiring your players to master their game.

Manuel the Manager

“I bring energy and life to players,” says Manuel, who lives in SJ with his fiancée Missy Martin during the season. “They see my passion for the game. That’s what I bring to the table.”

It’s not the only thing he brings – Manuel, 66, is known for his down-to-earth management style, advanced hitting know-how and an uncanny ability to have a simple hunch pay off big. He’s also done well turning young players into a team of superstars.

“Who you pick counts,” he blurts. “Talent matters, but character plays a part, too. I also want to see if they can focus, and if they can relax. You can achieve more if you’re relaxed.

“A lot of factors go into deciding who gets more money and who comes on board. I play a part in that – I voice my opinion and make suggestions, but the final decisions belong to the organization. There have been a lot of good decisions made on the make-up of this club.”

Manuel says his success developing players has to do with his communication style, which is open and honest, sometimes brutally so. “I don’t care if your feelings get hurt,” he says. “Back when I was a player, there were plenty of times the manager wouldn’t even talk to you. But I’m consistent. I’m a communicator. I think I’m one of the toughest managers in the game, but the media and fans wouldn’t say that.

“I let the players dictate where they want to go. You want to be a problem? You can, and we can take care of that. You want to be the best? We’ll do everything to help you, give you everything you need to be the best. But when you give up on yourself, we’ll give up on you.”

Despite his “openness,” Manuel says he does show some reserve when he’s working with a player he doesn’t necessarily like. “Ken Silvestri, who used to catch for the Yankees [1941-47], once told me if “I didn’t like a player, I shouldn’t let my feelings keep that guy from being a good player. He said I should always give players a second chance. It’s funny, sometimes I take that too far, and keep giving a guy second chances – because I know I don’t like him, and I want to be sure I’m doing the right thing.”

Manuel first started managing in the minor leagues for the Minnesota Twins in the early ’80s. His playing career began about a decade earlier, as a pinch hitter and outfielder for the Twins. His career didn’t take off, though, until he started playing in Japan, where fans loved his larger-than-life persona. Japanese players? Not so much.

Japanese pitchers were known to routinely throw bad balls that would be called as strikes, so Manuel perfected hitting the far-outside ball. Often, inside pitches hit Manuel.

In 1979, when he was leading the Japanese league in home runs, a fastball hit Manuel’s face, breaking his jaw. The determined American was back playing in just two weeks, wearing a face mask bolted to his batting helmet. He also put the screws from his jaw into a small bottle and wore it around his neck.

Back in the states, Manuel was hired as the Cleveland Indians hitting coach before eventually becoming the team’s manager in 2000. After being fired over a contract dispute, the Phillies brought him on as special assistant to then-general manager Ed Wade. Manuel was named team manager in 2005, replacing Larry Bowa. Only three years into his stint as manager, Manuel led the Phillies to their World Series win, making him, and the entire team, well-loved by Phillies fans, which isn’t easy to do.

“The players deserve all the credit they’re getting,” Manuel says. “It takes a great athlete to go out and play at this level every day. Great players have an attitude that is off-the-charts, and these players do. They’ve shown their dedication and passion. They’re a great group of guys. Every day, we talk about winning that game, that day.”

Because of the respect Manuel has for his players, he’s comfortable giving them freedom on the field. “I’m open to letting players play,” he says. “I take lots of chances. The best game I manage is when I don’t have to manage. It’s up to me to put them in a place where they can do their best, then step back and let them do it. The fewer decisions I make means our players are playing good. It’s not about me. It’s about the players playing.”

Home in Haddonfield

In the off-season, Manuel and Martin live in Winter Haven, Fla. During the season, though, the couple can be found cruising Kings Highway in Haddonfield.

“When I first got the job with the Phillies, I looked at houses in downtown Philadelphia,” Manuel says. “But then someone suggested Haddonfield, and when I saw the house we now live in and the main street, I liked it. I like everything about Haddonfield. This is where we spend our free time – where we eat and shop.”

It’s also where he gets his hair cut, at a local barber shop, where Manuel’s arrival begins an afternoon of baseball debates with customers. “There’s always a bunch of guys and they sit around talkin’ baseball with me while I get my hair cut. I like doing that.”

Manuel laughs when Phillies fans who live in SJ tell him they don’t want to be lumped in with Philadelphia fans. “But when they get in the ballpark,” he says. “They’re all the same.”

Manuel was married twice and has two children and two grandchildren who live in Maine. “We visit them as much as we can. During the season they visit us, and come watch some games.” (Manuel says every parent should take their kids to a Major League Baseball game because it creates “precious childhood memories.”)

When not coaching, Manuel loves to play golf and collect coins. “Most people don’t know how much I like coin collecting,” he says. “I’m a big collector.

I have all kinds of coins – some coins from the ’20s. Sometimes, instead of beating my head over baseball, I go on the computer and look at coins. I like to go to national coin shows, too. That would probably surprise a lot of people.”

New Season, New Look

When he steps onto the field this year, Manuel will be carrying a lighter load. He’s lost 56 pounds since last season by following the diet program Nutrisystem®. And since he has a history of poor health – having had three heart attacks, kidney cancer and a ruptured colon after surgery for diverticulitis – the weight loss should do him good.

 “I had let myself go,” he says. “My knees used to kill me. I was a borderline type II diabetic, and my doctor told me to lose weight. I was just uncomfortable with how heavy I was. Then I saw a photo of myself and I was pretty surprised by how I looked. I said, ‘That’s it. I’ve got to lose some weight.’”

Manuel chose Nutrisystem after seeing advertisements for the diet program. When word got out that he had success on the program, the company signed Manuel as a spokesperson. Print ads with Manuel’s “before and after” photos are running now, with television ads set to begin later this month.

But no matter the new look, it’s the same Charlie Manuel. “What you see is what you get,” he quips. “I’m straightforward. I’m consistent.”

And he’s down to earth, even though he’s reached celebrity status, having hobnobbed with some pretty famous people. “I’ve met President Obama twice and President Bush, Sr.

Long time ago, I went to dinner with President Eisenhower, and when I was a freshman in high school, I opened the car door for Truman. I had lunch with Ronald Reagan in Disney World. He was a very comical guy. I’ve met a lot of entertainers, too. But I get excited meeting – andI like meeting – all kinds of people.

I even like talking to a woman who tells me she doesn’t know a thing about baseball.

“I know I’ve had a good life,” he adds. “I know I’m very lucky. But I can’t say I like the attention on just me. I don’t want to take attention away from what we’re trying to accomplish as a team. It’s ‘we.’ It’s ‘us.’ I’m nothing special. I’m just like you, and everybody else.”

Charlie’s Story

Since entering the world of professional baseball nearly 50 years ago, Charlie Manuel has become one of the sport’s best-known and most-loved figures. He is often asked to comment on his success as a player and manager, though his career highlights speak for themselves.

  • Charlie excelled at baseball, football, basketball, and track and field during his high school years, and ultimately signed a contract to play with Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins upon graduation.
  • He played with the Minnesota Twins from 1969-1972 and with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1974-1975, mainly as a left fielder and pinch hitter.
  • Manuel played professional baseball in Japan from 1976-1981. In 1977, he helped to propel his team, the Yakult Swallows, to its first pennant and the Japan Championship Series.
  • In 1979, Charlie hit 37 home runs and won the Pacific League’s home run title. He was also voted Most Valuable Player of the league, making him the first American to receive the honor in 15 years.
  • When Charlie stopped playing in Japan, he boasted an impressive .303 batting average, 189 home runs and 491 RBIs, and he was widely considered one of the best foreign athletes to have played.
  • Upon returning to the U.S., Manuel worked as a minor league manager for the Minnesota Twins from 1983-1987 and the Cleveland Indians from 1990-1993. He won the Pacific Coast League and International League championships in 1992 and 1993.
  • Charlie was named Manager of the Year in 1984, 1992 and 1993, and had the honor of managing the International League All-Star team in 1993.
  • In 1988, Manuel returned to the Major League as the hitting coach for the Cleveland Indians. Under his command, the team led the American League in runs in 1994, 1995 and 1999, and in 1999 set a franchise record with 1,099 runs.
  • He served as the Cleveland Indians’ manager from 2000-2002, and he lead the team to the American League Central Division title in 2001.
  • In 2002, Charlie was hired by the Philadelphia Phillies as special assistant to the general manager. After the 2004 season, he became the team’s manager.
  • During the 2007 season, Manuel helped the Phillies secure the National League East title. He also finished second in balloting for the National League Manager of the Year Award.
  • Under Charlie’s direction, the Phillies became the 2008 World Series Champions after beating the Tampa Bay Rays in four games. Charlie was voted by fans as This Year in Baseball Awards’ Manager of the Year.
  • In October 2009, Charlie became the first manager in Phillies franchise history to lead the team to two consecutive World Series appearances.
March 2010
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