See ya, Charlie

Charlie Manuel

 

I’ll never forget October 29th, 2008.

School and work flew by that day, except for the last hour of work. I switched on the radio at Marple GameStop, heard ol’ Harry’s voice through the speakers, and World Series Game 5 was back on. I heard Pedro Feliz knock in what would be the Series-winning run and jumped up and down like a moron, slapping my hand on the counter so hard it still hurts me almost five years later (I wish I had seen the security tape, I probably looked like a total dope). The store closed at 9:00, I was in my car at 9:05 on my way home to watch the final innings.

I got home at the top of the 8th, a Wawa sandwich waiting for me. I don’t even remember eating it, though I do recall holding it close to my face in sheer terror during every pitch. Eventually it was the top of the ninth, and Brad Lidge took the mound. We all know what happened next, and why I ended up in MacDade Blvd GameStop’s parking lot cheering like a fool. For the first time in my then-21 years of life (and still the only time in my now-26 years), a Philadelphia team had done “it.”

We all had our favorite players, Utley, Howard, Hamels, etc. However, no matter who your favorite player was on the field, there was one guy in the dugout you loved unconditionally: the skipper Charlie Manuel.

He was an entire city’s wise ol’ grandpa, telling stories with a rambling southern drawl and walking to the mound with a trademark gait. Where Andy Reid was the target of many an Eagles fan’s rage, Cholly was universally loved. Winning a championship will do that, of course, but even before that I’d argue Charlie was the most popular head coach in Philly. Andy Reid was a bumbler who couldn’t call a timeout, the Sixers’ coaching position was a revolving door, and the Flyers were still pre-Laviolette. Meanwhile, the Phillies snuck their way into the 2007 playoffs on the last day, then the next year won it all. World F—ing Champions, as our second baseman put it so succinctly.

Today, the city’s grandpa was told his services were no longer needed in a disastrous season. My baseball mind says it’s a good thing–if we were going to reboot the team at the end of the year, why wait?–but my heart is heavy. Anyone born from 1981 on who tells you that they’re not the least bit sentimental about this move is either lying or soulless. All of us in that 32-year span has only seen one Phillies team win the World Series, and Charlie Manuel led them to it.  He says he’s going to take the rest of the season off to think, but I know he’ll be managing next year, and that’ll just be too weird.

Monday I go to the fifth game in the six-pack my wife bought me for Christmas, the first one of the rest of my Phillies fan life. It’s been a good run, Charlie. See ya around the ballpark.

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One thought on “See ya, Charlie

  1. averagejosh says:

    While the circumstances of his departure weren’t the same, my feelings about Bobby Cox help me to relate. From the time I was even old enough to be cognizant of what baseball was, Bobby Cox was the Braves’ skipper. Even now, in his third year of retirement, it just feels unnatural when I look into the dugout and see he’s not there, yelling out words of support for each Braves player going to bat. Sometimes I probably care too much about baseball, or at least my team, so it was a heartbreaking day when Bobby managed his last game.

    Our jalopy, makeshift of a team — held together with duct tape and conviction — finally ran out of gas and had its wheels fall off. Comprised of creaky veterans, wet-behind-the-ears rookies, journeyman bench guys, lifelong minor leaguers and a bench-ridden Chipper Jones (he’d torn his ACL in August), we could no longer make it on cortisone shots, luck and a belief in destiny.

    And after the game, as Bobby addressed the media, a couple of tears ran down his face. He had to stop to take it all in and collect himself. And watching that was like a gut punch to my soul. It hurt my heart (and that wasn’t the chili cheese fries talking).

    I’m not sure if the Phillies organization caught Manuel off-guard, or if it was a mutual decision, but I feel like it was in really poor taste to fire him mid-season. He deserved better than that. He’d given them a lot in his tenure there, and he’s probably the last person you could blame their awful season on.

    It’s weird how, when the team is winning, the players get all the credit, but when they’re losing, it’s somehow always the manager’s fault. I experienced that some while Bobby was around. Some small group of jerkoff fans would whine about who he used out of the bullpen, who may have lost us the game, but didn’t give him an ounce of credit when he made a million other moves to help win us a buttload of games.

    Anyway, I know how you feel, sir. It’s just an odd, not-quite-right kind of a feeling.

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