Mom on Manuel's mind after clincher

Mom on Manuel's mind after clincher

LOS ANGELES -- With players streaming to the on-field celebration around him on Wednesday, manager Charlie Manuel remained in the dugout, forming a circle with his coaches.

Sharing hugs and handshakes, Manuel climbed the steps toward the mob after the Phillies defeated the Dodgers, 5-1, in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. Shane Victorino, the first player in line, got the biggest hug, followed by Ryan Howard and Ryan Madson.

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Opposing skipper Joe Torre, in full uniform, came into his office to personally congratulate him. Later, in the obligatory "2008 National League Champions" T-shirt and cap, Manuel smiled at the thought of another trip to the World Series, with this one being his first as a manager.

He enjoyed the moment as best he could. Eventually, he found his girlfriend, Melissa Martin, who had been looking for him, and the two descended the stairs to change into street clothes.

While his players and coaches headed home early on Thursday morning as NL champions, Manuel will be a guest on a quieter charter flight as he returns to Buena Vista, Va., to honor his mother.

June Manuel passed away on Friday at age 87 before the Phillies beat the Dodgers, 8-5, in Game 2 of the NLCS. One of Manuel's brothers handled the arrangements, which allowed for Manuel to attend Thursday's viewing and Friday's memorial service.

This was important for Manuel, who wasn't going to miss a chance to say good-bye.

He reflected Wednesday on his mother's impact -- his toughness, grit, determination and compassion comes from her.

"My stubbornness and competitiveness, too," Manuel said with a twinkle in his eye. "My brothers say I definitely got that from my mom. That's how we were raised, and she played a big part in that. She had rules, and you had to obey them rules. She would definitely hold you accountable for things."

There was the time when Manuel and some friends purchased a pack of KOOL cigarettes, and June caught her young son smoking.

"She about killed me," he said. "She whipped me. She would do that if you did something she didn't like."

Manuel grew up fast after his father, Charles Manuel Sr., a preacher, committed suicide in 1963, and he left his oldest son as the man of the house. Eighteen at the time -- with a wife and child -- Manuel got his strength from his mother, who was trying to support 10 children living at home on "$117 a month in government pension from my father," according to Manuel.

After his first season of professional baseball, Manuel worked the graveyard shift at the local sawmill, clearing $48.50 a week. Most of it went to his mother.

"I used to keep five bucks and give her the rest," Manuel said. "I looked at my brothers and see how well they've done, and I know how hard they worked and how hard it was on my mom. My mom was a very strong woman with a very strong mind. Her kids were first. Everything came before her."

On Thursday and Friday, before the Phillies prepare to take on either the Red Sox or Rays in the World Series, Manuel will say, "Thank you."

After the season, Manuel has one more task. He said he plans to prepare a meal at the family home in Buena Vista, just like his mom used to do.

"Pot roast, beans and corn bread," he said. "That's her meal."

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