And there I was after the 2008 World Series, one of the greatest victories in Philadelphia sports history, wondering who was going to clean up the mess. I had just reentered the main clubhouse after standing in manager Charlie Manuel's office with him and Dallas Green, the only two men to manage the Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series title. I went into Charlie's office to ask him some questions about the great achievement for my stories for my job writing about the team for Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia, only to find him sitting there, still in uniform and with a bottle of V.O. on his desk next to the silver remote control. Charlie had a grin on his face and really didn't feel like doing too much talking. He just wanted to sit back and stay out of the way so his guys could spray champagne and spark up in the other room. After all, it was an emotional time for Charlie. Not only had he achieved a lifelong dream of winning the World Series, but just two weeks before the victory, his mother had died of heart failure in the rural Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
Charlie never really had a chance to grieve for his mother yet, since she died shortly before Game 2 of the National League Championship Series and he couldn't leave his team. But sitting there as the party raged around him and throughout the city, thousands of thoughts must have raced through Charlie's head.
He glanced up at the TV where images of people dancing in the streets flickered as if it were beamed back from a foreign country far away where they dance all night until the sun comes up.
"It’s good to see everyone happy," he said. "That makes me feel good."
Off in the corner in an overstuffed chair, Green sat with a huge smile that matched the sparkle from his World Series ring he won with the team in 1980. Brash only begins to describe Green's personality. Boisterous, combative and prone to controversial comments only scratches the surface with Green. As a manager, he cajoled, fought with and browbeat his team into the playoffs and in 1980, they rallied together just to spite him. Of course, it makes you wonder if that was his plan all along. Machiavellian behavior is nothing to put past a baseball man no matter how little time they spent in school or how many books they had read written by Italian philosophers.
However, this time there was nothing to fight over. It was over. The good guys won and Green finally had a new member in his very select club.
"I’ve been in baseball 52 years, so I’ve seen a lot," Green said. "When you’re with a team for so many years and you get to know the guys and the coaching staff and Charlie... I love these guys. They have proven to me that they are a helluva baseball team. They care about each other and they care about winning. I told anyone who would listen that they are a resilient team, they come to play and they want to win. Charlie has them convinced that you don't get too high and you don’t get too low--you just play the game.
"He did it differently than I would have, but that’s what managing is all about."
In terms of praise from one baseball man to another, that's about as deep as it gets. After all, these are men from a different era and a different background than me or my friends in the writing corps. Charlie came from Buena Vista, Virginia, the oldest of 11 children and whose father was a Pentecostal preacher. Charlie's father hated baseball and thought his son was just wasting his time playing the game when he could be in church every day. But Charlie's dad had trouble sorting through his own demons and committed suicide when his oldest son was 18, leaving them with a $117 monthly pension from the government and forcing young Charlie to give up a college scholarships to play basketball and go to work.
This time baseball paid off. In 1963 he went off to play minor league ball in the Twins organization and then returned home to work in the local sawmill for $48.50 a week.
Green, from Newport, Delaware, just a short drive south on I-95 from Philadelphia, never had to give back a scholarship or work in the local sawmill. Instead, Green went to the University of Delaware in nearby Newark where he was a pitcher on the baseball team and got his first job after graduating in 1955 as a pitcher in the Phillies organization. Since then, Green has had a number of jobs in plenty of different cities, but they have all been in baseball.
Like a lot of folks, he was in it for life.
Still, I wanted Charlie to see the party. Considering he had been in pro baseball since 1963 and traveled all over the world, including Japan, where as a home-run hitting gaijin he was known as The Red Devil, and had been on the winning side of the World Series just once, it seemed like a good idea for him to see his players party first hand. After all, sometimes the World Series trophy lands at your doorstep twice in 125 years.
Instead, Charlie was content to sit in his office with the TV on with Dallas grinning in the corner.
"Champagne burns my damn eyes. I have some V.O. up here," he said.
I couldn’t resist though. The revelry after the glory was something I had wanted to witness my entire life. And with the party trudging through the first wave and most of the writers back in the press box typing away at stories attempting to make sense of it all, I waded back in.
Needless to say, I found what I was looking for.
When you're a kid and baseball is one of the few things that can keep your attention, the post-World Series clubhouse scene is one of the most mesmerizing events broadcast on television. Where else could you ever see something like that? Sure, some correspondent from a remote spot on the map could beam some form of chaos into your living room, but that is usually undecipherable. Why are people rioting in the streets? What or who are they angry with? Will anyone get hurt?
Better yet, who is going to clean up afterwards?
But after the final game of the World Series, everyone knows what's going on. From a soft chair in your home it looks like the wildest party ever--or at least the wildest party in which the authorities are not summoned. Think about it... where or when can a regular guy throw a party in which all the guests are allowed to scream as loud as they want, make a mess in which one takes a full bottle of champagne or beer to be shaken and sprayed on anything or anyone that moves, all while giving hugs to anyone in sight.
It's bedlam, only with the danger removed.
Even the best party you ever attended or hosted was tinged with an undercurrent of uncomfortability or fear. Maybe some people you don't know or don't like will show up. Isn't that always a drag? Sometimes it's even worse than the stress of worrying whether something valuable will be broken or a bunch of people might disappear in order to do something borderline illegal while rooting through your drawers. Who needs that? Who wants that?
Nobody. Nobody wants their home treated like the sleazy motel just off the highway and near a thicket of woods that rents rooms by the hour. It's difficult to get a good night's sleep in a place like that, what with the sticky floors, dirty sheets, graham cracker-thin walls that offer little privacy from the recreational activities of the meth heads next door, and the parking lot full of semi-trucks.
What a headache!
On television, though, following the clinching game of the World Series, it looks as if anything goes. Not only that, it looks as if people were forcibly crammed into every available space in the room complete with men and women in suits speaking into microphones in front of TV cameras covered with plastic. Spill something? Hell, who cares! Someone will be by to clean up.
But they can clean up some other time. Right now it's Charlie, Dallas, a bottle of V.O. and me. I’m a big ugly fly on the wall of the most exclusive club in Philadelphia sports history.
Charlie Manuel, Dallas Green and a bottle of V.O. The only souls to walk the earth that won the World Series for the Philadelphia Phillies.