Day after mother's funeral, Manuel back with World Series-bound Phillies
PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel has been second-guessed on talk radio, critiqued in print and booed by those often-disharmonious Phillies fans.
There were even days after tough losses when June Manuel would call her son with some motherly advice. Tell those Phillies to bear down, really get after it, and go win some games.
Manuel's aw-shucks demeanor breaks out when he recalled what he told his mother.
"OK, mom, I'll let you come to talk to them then," said Manuel, with a laugh.
Manuel's greatest professional triumph of managing the Phillies to the World Series has been undercut by the personal anguish of his mother's death during the NL Championship Series. He didn't miss a postseason game, but did skip the first day of workouts to attend June Manuel's funeral on Friday in Buena Vista, Va., where Charlie Manuel is still a revered local hero.
The folksy manager has started to become one in Philadelphia, too.
Manuel reminded people that no one rooted for the Phillies quite like his 87-year-old mother. She was a fan of MVPs Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and, he added with a laugh, "she liked anybody who had a good day."
That's been almost all of the Phillies during the last two weeks as they beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the division series, then knocked off the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games in the NLCS to reach the World Series for the first time since 1993. Manuel returned to Philadelphia on Saturday for another day of workouts and a simulated game, hopeful to keep the Phillies sharp during their lengthy layoff before Game 1 against Tampa Bay or Boston.
The Phillies will take Sunday off and have another workout on Monday. They haven't played since clinching the NL pennant with a 4-1 victory against the Dodgers on Wednesday night.
"If we didn't do anything for three or four days, no baseball activities, then it might be a problem," second baseman Chase Utley said. "Charlie's keeping us busy, which is a good thing."
Manuel attended Friday's funeral with a small Phillies contingent that included general manager Pat Gillick and team president David Montgomery. Manuel recalled the last time he spoke to his mother, she predicted the Phillies would beat L.A. and play in the World Series. When the Phillies won the pennant, Manuel could only think of how much the victory would mean to his mother. He's been able to stay focused on the Phillies before the game. It's those quiet moments afterward when Manuel misses his mother's voice, her advice.
"I enjoyed every bit of the game the other night when we clinched against the Dodgers," Manuel said. "I loved every minute of it. I was having a tremendous time. At the same time, I did think of my mom."
Raised in Virginia, the 64-year-old Manuel didn't immediately connect with the fickle Phillies fans. They liked the fiery attitude of former manager and Phillies star Larry Bowa, even though he never took them to the postseason. They clamored for Jim Leyland, who interviewed for the job after Bowa was fired and instead took the job in Detroit. Leyland promptly led the Tigers to the World Series while the Phillies sat home.
Now, Manuel is cheered, getting credit for winning two straight NL East titles, and even hears chants of "Charlie! Charlie! Charlie!"
He only wished his mother could be around to enjoy all this October success. Manuel, though, believes she's still watching.
"If my mom can help me any way she can, I'm going to call on her to do it," Manuel said.
Manuel said his mother was the kind of woman who kept her cool and always put life in perspective. Manuel tries to live -- and manage the Phillies -- the same way. That's one reason why the Phillies love playing for him and have rallied around him while he grieves.
"Charlie's an amazing person," Utley said. "He's handled it well, he's still the same guy. That's what makes him special. No matter what's going on, he still treats everybody the same, which is extremely important."
Manuel said he hasn't considered his designated hitter for Games 1 and 2. Chris Coste might earn the nod against lefties, and standout pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs could get the start against the right-handers. Manuel ruled out Howard, his first baseman.
"I'd consider our strongest lineup the one that I think can win that day," Manuel said.
Before Manuel left his hometown, there was one thing he wanted to do. Manuel placed a Phillies hat inside June Manuel's casket, one final way for her to keep close to her son and her favorite team.
"I guess that's the way life is and that's part of it," Manuel said.
RHP Tom Gordon had surgery on his right elbow on Thursday. Gordon had bone spurs removed and had his ulnar collateral ligament repaired. His right arm will be in a splint for two weeks. Gordon was originally placed on the 15-day DL with right elbow inflammation on July 6 and missed the remainder of the season. He went 5-4 with a 5.16 ERA in 34 games for the Phillies this season.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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