Happy birthday to Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who turns 69 today.
Manuel has been a big-league skipper for 11 seasons (three with the Indians and eight with the Phillies), but his first managerial job was in the Midwest League helming the 1983 Wisconsin Rapids Twins. That team finished with a 71-67 record, which was pretty good considering their poor start to the season. From an Oct. 24, 2009, article in the Lehigh Valley newspaper The Morning Call:
The club started the year with a 9-27 record and at one point was more than 20 games out of first place. Maybe that’s because their manager was too busy mowing the field, laying down home plate, putting in the pitching rubber, lining the field and driving the team bus.
“One night early in the season I had a pitcher come in and he was swearing and saying ‘I’m telling you, home plate is crooked,'” Manuel recalled. “I got real upset with him. I said, ‘That’s ridiculous. I put home plate in there.’ I went out the next day and we started measuring it and it was off by about 18 inches.”
Around that same time The Philadelphia Inquirer published a lengthy article that focused on Manuel’s Midwest League managerial days. I highly recommend reading it.
Not only did Manuel manage the Wisconsin Rapids Twins in 1983, he also played for them in 1967. He nearly won the Midwest League triple crown that season, hitting .313 (1st) with 15 HR (2nd) and 70 RBI (T-1st). That was the same year Boston Red Sox OF Carl Yastrzemski won the triple crown in the American League, a feat not replicated in the major leagues until Detroit Tigers 3B (and former Kane County Cougars SS) Miguel Cabrera did it in 2012.
The 1967 Wisconsin Rapids team finished the season with a 70-46 record and lost to the Appleton Foxes in the Midwest League Championship Series. They also hosted the Midwest League All-Star Game that year.
Interestingly, the Appleton Foxes also won the Midwest League Championship Series in 1983, the year Manuel managed Wisconsin Rapids. After that season, the Wisconsin Rapids franchise was sold and moved to Kenosha; the Appleton Foxes changed their name to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers after the 1994 season.