Hey, this night is for Charlie Manuel!

Hey, this night is for Charlie Manuel!

August 9, 2014, 10:00 pm
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Charlie Manuel addresses the fans Saturday at Citizens Bank Park after being inducted onto the Phillies' Wall of Fame. (AP)

QUOTABLE

He had a special way of making you feel larger than you really were. He made you feel like you could conquer anything.
— Jim Thome on Charlie Manuel

It has become one of the most iconic quotes in this city’s rich sporting history.

Hey, this is for Philadelphia!

Charlie Manuel stood on the field at Citizens Bank Park and shouted those words from Broad and Pattison to Fern Rock on October 29, 2008, the night the Phillies won their second World Series in franchise history.

Fifty-one weeks after his 8½-year run as manager ended with him walking somberly out the door with just a plastic Wawa bag in his hand, Manuel was back at the site of his most triumphant moment on Saturday night.

And he brought his famous quote with him.

“Hey, this is for Philadelphia!” he shouted as an appreciative crowd of 39,153 rose to its feet in loud applause at the end of a terrific 30-minute on-field tribute to Manuel that included speeches, presentations and a fabulous video tribute.

Manuel became the 36th person enshrined onto the team’s Wall of Fame. Jim Thome, Manuel's beloved pupil, was on hand to unveil his old manager's bronze plaque on Ashburn Alley. Roy Halladay and Mike Lieberthal, two of Manuel’s former players, made presentations. Dallas Green, the only other Phillies manager to win a World Series, introduced Manuel to the crowd and the man the players called Big Chuck came through with an acceptance speech that was pure Big Chuck -- no pretense, no script, right from heart, and occasionally hilarious.

“I never go looking for awards but if someone wants to give me something I’ll take it,” Manuel told the crowd.

He earned this award.

His 780 wins are the most by a Phillies manager.

His teams won five straight NL East titles, appeared in two World Series, and, of course, won it all in 2008.

“That championship team was the greatest thing of my career,” Manuel told the crowd. “And the parade down Broadway …”

Like we said, hilarious.

Manuel thanked Phillies officials for giving him a chance to manage the club in 2005. He thanked his players. Consistency is the goal in baseball and Manuel has always been consistent with that. He has always credited his players for everything he achieved.

And Manuel thanked the fans. Over and over and over.

“You were our energy,” he said. “You never let us down.”

Fans still love Manuel, maybe more now than when he was skipper.

“I get hugs all the time,” he told the crowd. “Men, women, girls, boys. You name it, they hug me, they squeeze me.”

Of course, it wasn’t always that way.

When Ed Wade hired Manuel in the fall of 2004, the town cried foul. Charlie Manuel? That country bumpkin? Who’s he? What’s he ever won? Manuel didn’t start gaining acceptance from the fans until the Phillies won the division in 2007. A year later, a love affair was born, and a baseball town was reborn.

“In Charlie’s case, the strong survive,” Thome said. “He never let [the lack of acceptance early on] bother him. He had tunnel vision. His focus was that clubhouse. That was his priority, getting that clubhouse right.

“He had a special way of making you feel larger than you really were. He made you feel like you could conquer anything. That was his greatest gift and he brought it here and ultimately brought them a World Series.”

The sting of his firing is gone now. Manuel, 70, still works for the Phillies as a front-office adviser. He has gone back to his roots and is working with young hitters in the minor leagues. He has done some scouting.

It’s good that Manuel has stayed in the game because the game is better with him in it.

And the Phillies’ Wall of Fame is better with him on it.

Hey, that World Series was for Philadelphia.

But Saturday night was for Charlie Manuel.

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