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Jovial Manuel injects humor into Wall of Fame speech

Fun-loving manager of '08 Series champs relishes honor, reflects on Philly days

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Jovial Manuel injects humor into Wall of Fame speech play video for Jovial Manuel injects humor into Wall of Fame speech

PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel always brought plenty of energy into the Phillies' clubhouse, and memories of his enormous, fun-loving personality came rushing back Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park.

There is a reason players loved playing for him.

"We embraced him. He embraced us," Jim Thome said. "He had a special way about him, of making you feel larger than I think you really were. He made you feel like you could conquer anything. I think that was one of his greatest gifts. And I think he brought that here."

Manuel returned to the Bank to be inducted onto the Phillies' Wall of Fame. The Phillies have been playing baseball for 132 years, but he is one of only two managers to win a World Series. No manager has more wins. The club honored him with a 30-minute ceremony, which included a video tribute, Thome unveiling his plaque in center field and Roy Halladay presenting him a replica plaque on stage.

Manuel ended with a speech, which captured the essence of why players speak so highly about him. He was upbeat, positive and funny -- sometimes unintentionally so.

"I never would look for awards, but if somebody wanted to give me something I'll take it," he said, drawing laughs from the crowd.

Manuel praised the players that helped him win games. He recognized former pitching coach Rich Dubee, who worked closely with him.

Manuel always said the players deserved the credit. He believed it.

"It was a 'We,'" he said. "Our championship team was the greatest thing in my career. The parade down Broadway …"

Of course, it is Broad Street and Manuel knew that. But he spoke from the heart, not from a sheet of paper.

"You've been the greatest," he told the fans. "I love everything about you. I'm going to shut up because I want to see the game. This is for Philadelphia!"

Those final four words were immortalized during his address to the crowd following Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. He repeated them Saturday, reminding fans about the good times they had together.

"Believe me, I hope you don't think I'm bragging," Manuel said before his pregame ceremony, "I can't believe all the people that hugged me. Really. Seriously. It's unreal. I'd stop sometime, I'd see women, men, young boys, young women, kids, you might not believe it, it just kind of sets me back. I would say why would somebody want to do that? I have people hollering at me, wanting a hug about 100, maybe 50 yards, 60 yards [away]. 'Hey, Charlie, Charlie, Charlie.' Then they'll come running up and hug me. Actually, it's all right. I like it in some ways, but I don't understand it."

It is easy to understand, really. Manuel managed the Phillies through arguably their most successful era in franchise history. They won five consecutive National League East titles from 2007-11, two National League pennants and one World Series.

He managed two MVPs and one Cy Young Award winner.

He played a big part in a lot of great memories for people.

"It feels like it was yesterday," Manuel said. "It feels like it was short. It feels like the time I was here passed by fast. I was here for almost nine seasons, but it seemed like it was very short. I was talking to Dubee this winter, and part of being successful and winning games is that you don't have time to sit down and cherish the winning in the moment. It seems it goes so fast. It seems you always have tomorrow to take care of. You're just there to focus on what you're trying to do."

Manuel, whom the Phillies dismissed last August, works in the front office as a senior adviser to Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. He scouted amateur players before the First-Year Player Draft in June, and has been scouting the Minor Leagues, even working with some of the Phillies' Minor League hitters.

"When the season started I was definitely missing [managing]," he said. "I would get up every morning at 4:30, fix myself a cup of coffee and sit in a little room by myself, and I'd drink a couple of cups of coffee and I couldn't do anything else, so I would go back in there and turn the television on, trying to go back to sleep. I kind of kept up with everyone in Spring Training. But it was tough. I missed being around the clubhouse more than even the games. I missed the guys. I missed talking to them."

Perhaps Manuel's best quality as a manager was his ability to connect with players. More than just Thome have said Manuel helped them feel better about themselves.

As a result, many played better than they thought possible. And the team's success led to fans' admiration of Manuel.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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