I was always taught that when someone does something nice for you, the proper thing to do is to write them a thank you note. So here goes.
I have to be honest. When you were first named as the Phillies new manager back in 2005 you weren’t my first choice. In fact, you might not even have been in my top three. I’ll admit that I just didn’t think that your laid back West Virginia style would be a match for Philadelphia’s anything but laid back fan base.
And I’m afraid I wasn’t alone. Then when your first couple of weeks were filled with talk of not understanding the double switch and post game press conferences that would have benefited from a translator I was convinced that between the fans and Philadelphia’s tough press corps that you, Charlie, our new folksy manager, would be eaten alive.
But a funny thing happened on the way to your demise. Your team, our team started winning and winning and winning. It seemed that your laid back style and overwhelming public and private loyalty to your players did wonders in the Phillies clubhouse. The team followed your lead supporting each other both on and off the field. They played hard, they played with intensity, they played to win.
So I, like many fans who had unfairly written you off as a good old country boy, began to realize that you, Charlie, knew more about the game of baseball and the men who play it than any of us gave you credit for. And just like that the love affair between a city and its baseball manager began.
You gave us the best years we have ever had as Phillies fans filled with excitement, passion and just plain old fun. Going to the ballpark was a party and you, Charlie, were our gracious host. We had a team and a manager to be proud of on and off the field which is saying a lot in this age of baseball.
As to your accomplishments, they will always remain legendary. In your almost nine seasons as manager, the Phillies won five NL East championships, two National League pennants and one World Series title. You leave as the Phillies winningest manager with a regular-season record of 780-636 and a postseason record of 27-19. And I’m glad you stayed around long enough to get your 1000th win overall.
But the highlight, of course, will always be that magical 2008 season when you led the Phillies to their first World Series Championship in 28 years and only the second in franchise history. And the huge and well-deserved ovation you received at the joyous parade that followed cemented your place forever in Phillies history.
You showed your class once again that day when, at a moment that could have been filled with personal victory and vindication after what this city had put you through, instead you chose the high road. For me, Charlie, I will always remember the picture of you holding that World Series trophy high in the air for the fans in the stands to see:
“This is for Philadelphia! This is for our fans! I look around here and who’s the World Champions? I thank you!”
But today Charlie, it is all of us who must thank you. Thank you for helping to bring baseball back to our city. Thanks for all the fun and winning and the championships but even more importantly, thanks for showing us that you really can lead with dignity and class. In the world of professional sports where many say you have to treat your athletes like babies, you treated your players with loyalty and respect and they in turn gave you everything they had.
So Charlie, I will miss you. I will miss you standing behind the cage watching your batters hit as you so loved to do. I will miss you chewing your gum on the dugout steps, keeping your calm demeanor in good times and bad. I will miss you jawing with Jimmy Rollins during the game never failing to make him smile. I’ll even miss your Post Game press conferences where we never knew what we might hear but we always knew that it came from the heart. As did your words yesterday:
“I can’t explain to you guys what the last nine years have meant to me. I have had some of the best times of my life here. Philadelphia has been the high light of my career.”
And you, Charlie, have been a true highlight for us. One we will certainly never forget.
I wish you well with wherever your path may lead. And even if you do not choose to accept the position offered by the Phillies, I hope you know, as they say, that you will never have to buy a beer in this town again. Or a cheesesteak.
With great respect and appreciation,
A Devoted Fan