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.