When former Albuquerque Dukes slugger Charlie Manuel returns to town today for his Albuquerque Pro Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Isotopes Park, he’ll be hit with a rush of memories.
Manuel, 71, was a 6-foot-4, 195-pound left-handed-hitting outfielder/pinch hitter who played for the Dukes in 1974 and half of the 1975 season as property of the parent Los Angeles Dodgers. In 210 games, he batted .327, hit 46 homers and drove in 166 runs. Thirty of the homers came in 1974, when he was named PCL Player of the Year.
“I enjoyed playing in Albuquerque. It was a lot of fun. I definitely had great, fond memories of our teams and everything. We had some really good players.” Manuel said by phone Thursday from Florida while on assignment as a senior adviser for the Philadelphia Phillies – whom he managed to the 2008 World Series championship.
Among his Dukes buddies were Tom Tischinski, Rick Rhoden, Ivan DeJesus and Terry McDermott, who went on to be a popular Albuquerque TV sports broadcaster and still lives here.
McDermott said he plans to be at the ceremony.
“I haven’t seen him in 20-odd years,” he said Friday night. “He was older than most of us and what he really helped us with was how to approach the game as a professional. He knew the game a lot better than we did and had already played in the major leagues.
“He was a great teammate, a great leader. He’s a sweet guy, too, except when he was competing.”
Among Manuel’s highlights here was going against Mickey Mantle in a home run hitting contest at the old Sports Stadium in 1974, with Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller serving up lobs.
“I beat him 21 home runs to one,” said Manuel, who added that Mantle had been retired for some time (six years). “I really enjoyed it. The crowd was cheering for us.”
In 1993, Manuel was a manager in the Triple-A All-Star Game at the Sports Stadium. He guided players whose parent teams were in the American League.
“We got smoked,” Manuel said with a chuckle. “I pitched a lefty named John O’Donoghue. I want to say they wound up scoring seven runs on him that first inning. I remember Johnny Oates, one of my coaches, came up to me and said, ‘If we plan on winning this game we might want to take him out.’ ”
The National League in fact scored only one run in the first inning, but tagged O’Donoghue for five runs in 12/3 innings. Final score, 14-3.
Manuel has been in organized ball since coming out of high school in Virginia in 1963 and signing with the Minnesota Twins, for whom he played from 1969-72. He also spent time with the Dodgers in 1974 and ’75.
Manuel hit only three homers in the majors in 432 at-bats, but said his power hitting took off at midcareer when he received tips from longtime coach/manager Preston Gomez while on a minor league assignment with the Twins in Portland, Ore.
But because of a lingering foot injury, he played with a limp in Albuquerque and often was used only as a pinch hitter. Thus, MLB teams weren’t clamoring for the long-ball threat after the 1975 season.
It was then off to Japan for a glorious six-year run from 1976-81.
“I had been up and down in the majors and wasn’t getting anywhere,” Manuel said. “Then the Japanese came by and offered me some money and I thought it was time to go. It was a big raise from major leagues.”
While there, he also had surgery to alleviate his foot problem, and he was able to play in the field regularly again.
One league MVP award and 189 homers later, Manuel retired and returned home.
Tthe Twins then called with a job offer in the organization, which led to a career as a scout, adviser, coach and manager. From 2000-02, he was skipper of the Cleveland Indians. From 2005-13, he was the Philadelphia Phillies’ boss.
He guided the Phils to five straight division titles (2007-11), two pennants (2008-09) and the 2008 World Series victory over Tampa Bay. He was dismissed in 2013 with the Phillies at 53-67.
He has a career managing mark of 1,000-846 (.548), one of 60 skippers in history to reach 1,000 wins. He has the 17th best winning percentage.
As an adviser, he was in Bradenton, Fla., on Thursday watching the organization’s Florida State League club.
“In the summertime, I watch our minor league teams and evaluate talent,” he said. “I work with hitters. It keeps me real busy.”
He will be joined on today’s journey down memory lane by fiancée “Missy” Martin.