Fri May 21 11:35am EDT
It took a while, but Charlie Manuel and the city of Philadelphia have developed quite a love affair. Part of the thaw in relations had to do with the Phillies winning the World Series in 2008, of course, but another factor is Manuel's irrepressible personality. Just by getting to know him — whether you're a Hall of Famer or the average Joe on the street — Manuel can't help but make you accept him.
On a recent swing through Milwaukee, Manuel took a few moments to chat with the Answer Man. It's been quite a journey for Manuel, going from Appalachian Virginia to a career in pro baseball that has spanned both coasts and Japan.
David Brown: When was the last time you had to pay for your own beer in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?
Charlie Manuel: Hmm. A couple years. I'd say they take pretty good care of me at home and in spring training.
DB: You got very friendly with the Amish in Ohio — they're big Indians fans — what about in Pennsylvania?
CM: Oh, yeah. A lot of times, on off days, Missy and I will go to Lancaster and — I forget the name of the restaurant — but I love eating out there. And they know about the Phillies.
DB: The people of your hometown are unpredictable in how they pronounce the town's name, Buena Vista...
CM: They call it "Bee-yoo-na Vista." It's Spanish for "Beautiful View" and that's why it's named Buena Vista, too, 'cause it sits right in the Shenandoah Valley.
DB: Taking that into account, how should we pronounce your middle name (Fuqua)?
CM: [Laughs]. You don't! You leave it alone [laughs]. You forget about it. A lot of people still call me that back home. They call me the same thing.
DB: Some people of Philadelphia have given their baby boy a middle name of "Fuqua" in your honor. What do you think of that?
CM: Is that right? I think that's outstanding [laughs]!
CM: Thinking back, the first time I saw him was in spring training; he was with the Red Sox. I was in the minor leagues in that time — either Double-A or Triple-A — and we went over to Winter Haven in Florida and I remember he was standing outside this door of a clubhouse they had. I just went up to him and introduced myself.
DB: You weren't intimidated? He had a reputation for not necessarily being approachable.
CM: No, I wasn't at all. He was kind of a loud guy. He called everybody "Bush." He didn't remember your name, so he'd call you "Bush" [laughs].
DB: Why did Billy Martin pick you to be the guy to entertain Mickey Mantle whenever he visited the Twin Cities?
CM: [Laughs]. Because I was a rookie and I wasn't going to play the next day, so he told me this, and they [Billy and Mickey] took me with them. They were teaching me how to be rookie. I was supposed to sit there and keep my mouth shut. I didn't get to talk. They bought me drinks [laughs]. So, Billy got up and left and — since I wasn't playing the next day — he told me to stay there with Mickey [laughs]. That was pretty good.
I had just moved into this apartment [in Minnesota] and he went home with me. He was good. He didn't saying nothing about hitting [laughs].
DB: What did you guys talk about?
CM: We talked about drinking and other things. Mother Nature things [laughs]. I got to know Mickey pretty good. He'd always come over — if I was playing — and say hello to me, holler at me.DB: Why did you and Jim Thome(notes) connect so well?
CM: The first time I had seen him was in spring training, the year he played rookie ball  that summer. Buddy Bell and I were sitting together on the bench, just talking, in Tucson. And Thome hits a ground-ball single by third base here. The ball looked like it was inside and he just rolled it by there, right by the bag. Then he got into a force play at second and he came back, off the field.
Buddy and I were sitting ... and he just kind of pushes us over and sits right down in the middle of us and he looks at us like a little kid. We didn't say nothin' to him and then when the inning was over, he went running on the field and I said, "Nice hittin', kid."
I really started taking an interest in him because he was strong. I was working with this one kid named Mike Davis after practice every day and Thome hung out with him. After working with Davis for about a week, I looked up and Thome was the one getting what I was saying. He'd go up to the plate, all parallel and started hitting and I went, "Boy, I may be working with the wrong guy!" [laughs]. Seriously! He'd just follow me around and I'd talk to him and work with him on hitting all the time. He was very coachable. So easy to talk to, real easy. He was what you'd call kind of bashful and a backward kind of kid.
DB: Did you get to keep that generic uniform from the Nutrisystem commercial?
CM: No. No, I didn't get to keep it. But I think they still got it [laughs].
DB: So you might make some more commercials for them.
CM: I will if they want me to! I still do some work with them. ... And my weight is fine. I weigh about what I did when I did that commercial.
DB: In football or basketball, coaches wear suits or sweaters or whatever. Would you like to wear a suit like Connie Mack did?
CM: Uniform. Nowadays, though, we get "day" uniforms — especially at home — and I'll forget. Players will remind you, "Hey, Charlie, we're playing during the day." You know that one uniform we got?
DB: No pinstripes.
CM: I always put the pinstripes on for some reason [laughs].
DB: Do you think the Phanatic has lost weight along with you?
CM: Nah, I don't think he's lost anything. Still big as ever.
DB: But aren't you tempted by the Kentucky Fried Chicken sandwich that's just two pieces of chicken, cheese and bacon and cholesterol?
CM: I see all those ads. I kind of stay away from all that, you know? I might sneak a piece in now and then — all depends on how much I work out.
DB: Back when the White Sox were about to hire Jerry Manuel, I thought it was you at first. Were you under the same impression?
CM: [Laughs]. Heh, not really. I've known Jerry Manuel a long time. I met him, I think, about 1982. I told him, "The only thing good about you is your last name." And I tell him that about every time I see him.
DB: People get you mixed up to this day?
CM: They definitely get us mixed up.
Greg Casterioto, Phillies Director of Baseball Communications: The box score they handed out [in Milwaukee] had "Jerry Manuel" at the top.
CM: Did it? See what I mean!
DB: Who's the greatest "Charlie" of all time?
(Suggestions come pouring in)
CM: [To the peanut gallery] Who? Brown?
DB: The cartoon character.
CM: Oh, [laughs]. Charlie Brown!
CM: Real tough! [laughs]. Ha! He's the same pitcher now. Same old thing. Matter of fact, he might be older than me.
DB: The Phillies don't even own a pair of binoculars, do they? Might those have been left behind by the previous visitor to Coors Field?
CM: Exactly [laughs].
CM: I just sat there watching him. He was so surprised, I felt like, "Might as well keep going along with it" [laughs].
DB: That wasn't how you found out you were being sent to Japan, right?
CM: No, the Dodgers gave permission for a Japanese team to talk to me. So I knew what was going on. It wasn't like a big surprise.
DB: Can you insult me in Japanese right now?
CM: Yeah, I could a whole lot — but I can't say on the record.
DB: Not that you were ever THAT big, but were you ever tempted to try sumo wrestling while over in Japan?
CM: No, no. But I do like pro wrestling and Antonio Inoki used to live right next door to me. He was a big-name rassler in Japanese wrestling at that time. He was the one who fought [Muhammad] Ali.
DB: So, have you ever been to a Wrestlemania event live?
DB: Who's your favorite wrestler?
CM: Goldberg. I like Goldberg.
DB: What do you think it feels like to get tasered?
CM: I'm not planning on finding out! [laughs].
DB: Should umps have them in case you managers get out of hand?
CM: No comment [laughs].
DB: What's life going to be like not having Donavan McNabb around anymore in Philly?
CM: Eh, I liked Donovan McNabb. I liked watching him play. I think he's a good quarterback, I think he's tough. I think they'll miss him. But it depends, of course, on the guy that takes his place, how good he does. If he does good, then they'll forget about him.
DB: Do you think you could coach Allen Iverson?
CM: I don't know. He's a good player; I probably could have.
DB: You once managed a player named Thomas Thomas. That had to be hilarious.
CM: Yeah! I think he played at Cal-Fullerton the year they won the national championship. He was a center fielder, a little left-handed hitter, yeah. We called him "Tee Tee" [laughs].
DB: In the minors, you also managed Billy Beane, Ron Washington and Ron Gardenhire. What do they owe to you as far as their success in this game?
CM: Nothin'. They were good baseball guys. Billy Beane had a lot of talent. I thought he could have been a better player. At one time, he was a big prospect. When I had him in the minor leagues, I thought he was going to be an even better player in the bigs. Gardenhire, I had kind of at the end of his career. Ronnie Washington was just a hard-nosed player. A good low-ball, fastball hitter. He was a pretty good player.
Billy was very intelligent and very intellectual and stuff like that. He was pretty up with what goes on [beyond the field]. Gardenhire definitely had a love and passion for the game and I think he's ideal for the game as a manager or coach because of how passionate he is for it. Ronnie Washington was a very high energy guy who played the game hard and right. I could see him becoming a good coach or manager some day.
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