LOS ANGELES – Charlie Manuel's phone still rings, over and over.
Friends call to sympathize. Siblings call to empathize. Acquaintances call because they think they ought to.
June Manuel, Charlie's mom, called most days. And now the phone rings, over and over, and it's never her.
She died Friday, a few hours before Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.
Manuel managed the Philadelphia Phillies to a win and a 2-0 lead in the series that night. Then he flew to Los Angeles, leaned on the batting cage for a couple of hours Saturday, and on Sunday came to work again. Before the Phillies would play to draw themselves a little closer to the franchise's first World Series appearance in 15 years, Manuel spoke publicly about his mom for the first time since she passed away.
She was 87 when her heart gave out, 45 years after her husband, Charles Sr., had committed suicide, leaving Charlie to help raise nine brothers and sisters.
They did their best, all together. And now she's gone, painfully at a time of Charlie's greatest professional achievement. On Sunday afternoon, Ol' Cholly pushed that old, filthy cap back on his forehead and sighed.
"Basically, I thought the other day when the game started … I got really focused on the game and everything like that," he said. "I think it was kind of – it was OK. It was fine. I mean, I got caught up in the game and everything kind of for, what, a couple hours or two or three hours. I was just totally involved in the game. And I felt like I was pretty good.
"I like being by myself a lot of times. And I think any time right now, any time that I can get away, I feel better that way. But we've got things to do. And I feel like that I know my mother would want me definitely in that dugout because she used to manage a lot for me anyway."
A few writers laughed at that, which is how Manuel intended it. He barely managed a smile.
"Most of those things she'd tell me about how to play baseball or something like that," he said. "I never listened to her anyway, but I'd just say, 'Yeah, Ma, whatever.' And the fact she would always call me and she'd tell me things like, 'You go tell those guys that I said I'm praying for them and I want them to bear down and really get after it.' And I used to say, 'Yeah, Mom, I'll be sure to tell them, OK.' And, also, sometimes I might get a little upset, and I'd say, 'One of these days I'm going to bring you up here and let you tell them.' "
Well, they know now. They probably suspected, anyway.
"My mom and I are very close," Manuel said, using the present tense. "I know that she would definitely want me to finish the season, if possible. Like there's no way I'd miss her funeral, but at the same time hopefully this is going to work out. But at the same time, I never thought about not managing a game or our team because we've come this far, and I just want to be there."
- Charlie Manuel