Cheers To Charlie

I attended an event last night called Cheers To Charlie.  The event was to celebrate the great Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia Phillies Manager, and was held at the top of the Wanamaker Building in a big ballroom called the Crystal Tea Room.  The event was awesome and I managed to get the autograph of Charlie Manuel which I’ve been trying to do for several months now. 

For those of you who don’t know much about Charlie, please read the excerpt below from Wikipedia, he really is an amazing guy who’s overcome a lot and accomplished great things:

DISCLAIMER:  The italicized section below is 100% from Wikipedia

He became a four-sport star at Parry McCluer High School in Buena Vista, playing baseball, American football, basketball and track and field and captaining the baseball and basketball teams. His first love was basketball and he had received scholarship offers in that sport, but his plans and his life would dramatically change just before his high school graduation.

In April 1963, his father, who had been ill with diabetes and heart problems, committed suicide, leaving behind a suicide note asking that Charlie, who was already married with a child, take care of his mother and siblings.[1][2] He turned down his basketball scholarship offers, including one to the University of Pennsylvania[3], to consider offers from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, and New York Yankees, ultimately signing with the Twins out of high school in 1963 for $30,000.

Major league career

Manuel played from 1969 to 1972 with the Minnesota Twins and in 1974 and 1975 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, primarily as a pinch-hitter and left fielder.

Japanese Baseball

Manuel’s baseball career took off when he left the United States to play in Japan. Wildly popular for his tenacious style of play and his power-hitting abilities, Manuel was dubbed “Aka-Oni” (The Red Devil) by fans and teammates.

In 1977, he hit .316 with 42 home runs and 97 runs batted in, helping the Central League‘s Yakult Swallows reach second place for the first time in franchise history. In 1978, he hit .312 with 39 homers and 103 RBI, powering the Swallows to their first pennant and the Japan Championship Series.

Playing for the Pacific League‘s Kintetsu Buffaloes Manuel hit 25 home runs in the first 8 weeks of the 1979 season.[4] He was on pace to break the Japanese record of 16 home runs in a month.[5] Most Japanese felt it would be an insult for a foreigner to hold that record.

At a game against the Lotte Orions on June 19, 1979, he was beaned by a pitch from Soroku Yagisawa, effectively stopping Manuel from taking that record.[5] The pitch broke Manuel’s jaw in six places. He wore a dental bridge as a result of an earlier accident in the minor leagues. There was nothing for doctors to wire together, so they inserted 3 metal plates in his head and removed nerves from his face.[6]

Manuel was discharged from the hospital after 6 weeks and immediately began playing baseball again, against the advice of doctors and worried family. The Buffaloes were struggling to stay in the lead of the Pacific League and had never won a pennant before. To protect his mangled jaw, Manuel wore a helmet equipped with an American football facemask. He wore the helmet for the fist few games back but stopped using it because it obscured his vision at the plate.[7]

He finished the 1979 season with 37 home runs to win the home run title. He lead Kinetsu to its first pennant win. He also won the admiration of the Japanese and was voted MVP, the first American to receive the honor since 1964 hitting .324 with 37 home runs and 94 RBI.

A year later, Manuel shocked Japanese baseball by leaving for a week to attend his son’s high school graduation in Virginia. His contract allowed it but team officials were incredulus that Manuel would leave the team 2 games back of first with only 3 weeks to play in the first half of the season.[8] Manuel returned to lead the team to the second half championship and the pennant. He finished the season hitting .324, 48 home runs, and 129 RBI. It was the best season for an American player in Japan to that point. Manuel won no awards that year. Apparently, the Japanese could not forgive the week in which Manuel put family before baseball.[9]

In 1981, he returned to the Yakult Swallows after being released by Kintetsu over contract negotiations.

Manuel finished his successful run in Japan with a .303 career average, 189 home runs and 491 RBI. He was considered one of the best imported baseball players to Japan in those days, along with brothers Leron and Leon Lee and Randy Bass.

During his time in Japan, Manuel learned to speak Japanese. The language skill and experience in Japan was useful in managing players such as So Taguchi and Tadahito Iguchi.

I’m going to start calling Dalia Aka-Oni!

4 thoughts on “Cheers To Charlie

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