Charlie Manuel's accent is not a Philly accent. One of the skipper's stars recently summed up the city's initial assessment of his Southern inflections, stammering delivery, and carefree approach to grammar. "You hear his country accent, and you think he's a little bit slow," Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said last week. "But he's sharp as a tack."
Manuel, the third of 11 children of a Pentecostal minister, may have shown up in Philadelphia eight years ago seeming like a bumpkin from Buena Vista, Va. But he became one of the great Phillies managers, leading the team to five division titles, two pennants, and a World Championship.
By the time the increasingly unlikable team fired its invariably likable manager last week, the city had embraced Charlie as totally as it embraces anything. Yes, his accent was foreign, but his unvarnished doggedness had come to seem quintessentially Philadelphian.
The manner of Manuel's midseason dismissal - albeit in a bleak season for which few assign him much of the blame - was painfully unsuited to the man, who wouldn't have ended things that way for anyone else. When Manuel erred, it was on the side of trust in his players. He would keep a flagging slugger or wobbly reliever in place, professing stubborn confidence all along.
To hear his players tell it, that was his genius. "He not only brought the best out of myself, but he brought the best out of a lot of players," said Chase Utley. "Charlie was kind of like a father to a lot of us," said Cole Hamels. "He really enjoyed watching us have success."
Ex-Phillie Jayson Werth said of the manager's dismissal, "He deserves better." And yet Manuel took the loss with the plainspoken class we've learned to expect of him. After managing a game knowing he had been fired, he sat down for a press conference next to the man who fired him, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., and said he "would have wore" his uniform for it if he could. Then he trudged out of Citizens Bank Park toting a Wawa bag.
The next day, Manuel showed up to sign autographs at a suburban mall, enthusiastically honoring an earlier commitment. And on Monday, he told WPHT-AM (1210) that he had "watched every pitch" of the Phillies' series against the Dodgers over the weekend, the first managed by his successor, Ryne Sandberg. "We got a big win yesterday," Manuel said. "Hamels pitched great. [Carlos] Ruiz hit the ball good. . . . Our defense was pretty good, and everything was good."
It was like Charlie said at that press conference: "I did not resign, and I did not quit. I want to tell you something: I never quit nothin'."