Charlie Manuel… Manuel Labor
“All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia
- W.C. Fields”

The legendary W.C. Fields coined that humorous phrase, just prior to passing, intending that it be used on his tombstone when he died. For the record, it was not, and those visiting his gravesite at Forest Lawn can verify this fact.

And although Charlie Manuel, a man that is very much alive, and very much in Philadelphia is enjoying great success, it wasn’t always that way. In fact, figuratively and sometimes literally Charlie and his tough life appeared left-for-dead on many occasions.

When Charlie Manuel was 19-years old, his father, a respected minister in Northfork, West Virginia, committed suicide, leaving behind his wife and 10 children. In his suicide note, he commanded that Charlie, the eldest of his siblings take care of the family.

At the time Charlie had a scholarship offer to play basketball at North Carolina. Basketball was his favorite sport, but the Minnesota Twins offered him a bonus of $19,000 to sign, so he did so in an effort to support his family.

He toiled in the minor leagues, but ultimately made it up to the Major Leagues for parts of 6-seasons. You might never have heard of Charlie Manuel if he wasn’t the Manager of the 2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, and although I’m not a Philly fan, it’s hard not to have a place in your heart for a man of this stature. The reason is simple. In the 47-years from his initial entrée into professional baseball until his team was crowned champion on October 27th, 2008, this man has endured unthinkable setbacks and hardships and never once complained. He simply got up every day and did his job, while refusing to allow life’s obstacles to make him quit.

It wasn’t long ago that Philly fans hated him, but Manuel took it stride simply saying, “When they really get to know me, they’ll like me.” And he continued to suffer in silence, like he always had.

He’s endured a heart attack, kidney problems, quadruple bypass surgery and cancer. His health problems were so severe, he even needed to wear a colostomy bag beneath his uniform for one entire season which caused him to quip, “I had to make sure I didn’t run out onto the field whenever I argued with the umpire, I could only walk!”

Perhaps the toughest hand was dealt when his dear mother dropped dead of a heart attack on October 10, 2008. Charlie and she were especially close for obvious reasons, and she had predicted earlier in the season that his Phillies would win the World Series this time. “This will be the year Charlie,” she boldly proclaimed.

Seventeen days after her passing, that is exactly what happened.

Ironically, Charlie’s father never approved of his love for sports, believing they were a waste of time, and thinking Charlie should only focus on activities that would help him in life.

And, over the years, it has been common knowledge that Charlie Manuel is an absolute favorite among the players that have played for him because of his incredible ability to connect with people for the greater-good, asking his employees only that they, “ be on-time, and hustle.”

Now even jaded Philly fans love him, too. For the record, not only did Charlie’s dedication to sports help him in his own life, but he’s helped countless others, too.

We’ll never know how good he might have been in his favorite sport, but many are thankful he committed to his second favorite because they got to know him, and yes, they all like him…

But, as his Philadelphia Phillies take the field for a 4th straight postseason appearance under his direction, you just know that somewhere mom is smiling, and she is very proud.

All things considered, I’m sure she’d rather be in Philadelphia.

(c) 2010 BernieFratto.com