Perhaps you've heard or read about the lifelong trials and tribulations of Phillies' manager Charlie Manuel. Even if you have, it's worth recalling how tough his 64 years have been and that's why I'm more happy for him than anybody connected with the baseball champions of the planet.
Manuel's birthplace was listed as Northfork, W. Va. but he was born Jan. 4, 1944 in the back seat of the family car on the side of the road as his mother, June Edmonds Manuel, was on her way to visit her mother, Ruby Edmonds, who made her home in the southern West Virginia coalfields.
Manuel's grandma Ruby lived to be 100 and Charlie joked that he thought his mother would live that long, too. But she died at 87 after a brief illness at Roanoke (Va.) Memorial Hospital just hours before Game 2 of the National League Championship with the Dodgers.
Charlie and sister Teresa, who lives in Buckhannon, W. Va, are among 10 of 11 children who survive.
Charlie grew up in Buena Vista, Va. (population 6,349), located about halfway between Roanoke and Charlottesville. His dad, Charlie Sr., a local minister, died when he was 19.
Manuel was a four-sport athlete in high school. Charlie often walked eight miles barefoot to play pickup basketball games all day at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.
North Carolina and Penn offered him a basketball scholarship but his mother encouraged him to sign for a $20,000 bonus with the Twins and he used part of the money to buy his mother a house in which she continued to raise nine brothers and sisters.
The Twins looked at Manuel as their next great right fielder after Tony Oliva. But he was plagued by injuries, including a bone spur in his heel, and a bad temper.
The toughness was there, however. Ex-Dodger and Pirates pitcher Jerry Reuss threw a fastball that broke his nose, fractured his jaw, and knocked out six of his teeth in a minor league game but Manuel played the next two games. While later playing in Japan, a pitcher broke his jaw and he was supposed to miss two months but he played in two weeks.
Manuel batted only .198 in six Major League seasons, mostly with the Twins, and then he was off to Japan for six years. His fire was stoked with the Twins by volatile manager Billy Martin but later playing for the Dodgers he got calmed down by the great, unruffled Walter Alston.
Playing for the Kintetsu Buffaloes in Japan, he was Pacific League MVP in 1979, hitting .324 with 37 homers and 94 RBIs despite missing two weeks with that broken jaw. He hit 48 homers the next season, the same season the Phillies won their last World Series title, led by third baseman and Ohio University graduate Mike Schmidt who also belted 48 homers.
Charlie then had two stints and eight total seasons as hitting coach with the Indians before taking over as manager in 2000. He won Triple-A titles at Indians' affiliates Colorado Springs and Charlotte.
Manuel's 2001 Indians with Jim Thome, Roberto Alomar, Travis Fryman, Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton, C. C. Sabathia, Bartolo Colon and Co. won the American Central Division with 91 victories but lost to the Mariners in the AL Division playoffs. The winning pitcher in the 3-1 title game was Jamie Moyer, a guy who helped Manuel win a World Series championship.
The Indians fired Manuel in 2002 after a 39-47 record and a third place division finish. The Indians played without Alomar and Lofton and Colon pitched in only 16 games before being traded to Montreal. The Colon trade paid off in recent years because the Indians got all-stars Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee but Sizemore didn't play for the Tribe until 2004 and Lee pitched in only two games in 2002.
Manuel has survived a heart attack, quadruple bypass surgery, a blocked and infected colon, and kidney cancer. For four years he's survived a brutally critical Phillie fandom, absorbed numerous insults over sports talk radio about everything, including his syntax, but he's weathered it all and proved to be a good, no-nonsense manager and a genuine winner.
Bill Robinson is a former Marietta Times sports editor.