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When pitching around Manuel didn't work, teams occasionally pitched at him. "They brought guys out of the minor leagues to hit Charlie, because they knew if they hit him, he was going to go out and beat the crap out of them," says Arnold. One pitcher escaped his fate by running into centerfield and jumping over the fence. It was all kind of funny, the redheaded, red-faced Yank chasing little pitchers all over the park, until one midsummer afternoon in 1979.
Before the start of the 1979 season Manuel was traded to the Kintetsu Buffaloes. Around 3 p.m. in a June 19 game against the Lotte Orions the sun was just starting to duck behind the light standards, casting a checkerboard of shadows between the mound and the plate. Lotte pitcher Soroku Yagisawa threw a fastball up and in. Manuel never saw it. As upsetting as the sight of a friend getting hit flush in the face was, the sound is what sticks with Arnold, who was standing in the on-deck circle. "It was the most sickening sound you ever heard," he says.
Manuel was leading the league in homers at the time and believes that Yagisawa hit him on purpose. "They were throwing at me," says Manuel. "They threw at me a lot." His jaw was broken and had to be wired shut. He was told he'd miss eight weeks, but with the Buffaloes in the running for their first Pacific League pennant, he was back in two. Playing with a face mask bolted to his batting helmet and wearing the screws that had come out of his jaw in a bottle on a chain around his neck—if a pitch came near his head, he'd pull out the necklace and shake the bottle at the pitcher—Manuel finished the year with 37 homers and a .324 average in 333 at bats. The Buffaloes won the Pacific League. When Manuel retired two years, 60 homers and one pennant later, he hadn't just survived in Japan, he had become a full-fledged folk hero: Aka Oni. The Red Devil.
"Charlie made it possible [for Americans in Japan]," says Arnold. "The Japanese gave in to him. There was nothing they could do to stop him, so they just started accepting that Americans can have something to offer."
Years later, when Manuel was hired as skipper in Philadelphia, another ex-gaijin, Marty Brown, told him, "You and I both played in Japan. If you can take that, you can take managing the Phillies."
They were an odd-looking pair: the novice manager and Big John, the heavyset African-American groundskeeper. Odder still was that they were talking during a game, when the manager presumably had other things to deal with.
But Charlie Manuel's Orlando Twins were getting pasted 7--0 at home by the Charlotte O's early in a one-game playoff to decide the 1984 Southern League Eastern Division second-half race, and he had to do something. As the storm clouds rolled in, Manuel called Big John down for a talk. A short while later the heavens opened. The game hadn't gone five innings, so a rainout meant they'd have to go back and start all over. In the O's dugout manager John Hart was hollering for the tarp. One problem: The grounds crew was nowhere to be seen. "What Charlie did," says Hart, "he gave the groundskeeper a hundred dollars and a bottle of Jack Daniels, and the grounds crew disappeared."
Not true, says Manuel, "I gave him $50 and told him to go buy him some wine." Either way, with the field under water, Southern League president Jimmy Bragan had no choice but to call the game, giving the Twins another chance. (The O's won the rematch.)
The cagey move with Big John notwithstanding, Manuel was, by his own admission, no master tactician. He took a job as a scout for the Twins when he got back from Japan. In 1983 he was hired as the manager of the Single A Wisconsin Rapids. "I knew nothing," says Manuel. "I thought I knew baseball because I played 20 years. But the only thing I knew was how to play rightfield and how to hit. I didn't know how to stop double steals, how to set defenses, how to use a pitching staff...." His bunt sign entailed squaring around and saying, "Bunt." A typical pregame talk consisted of Manuel pointing to the cowboy on the giant cigarette ad out in deep right center and asking his players, "O.K., who's gonna knock the d— off the Marlboro Man today?"
Many days it was Manuel himself. "I'd take batting practice and hit right along with them," he says. "That was the fun. I'd tell the guys, 'I got back in this game so I could take BP and be around the clubhouse.'" But his work with his hitters, the one thing he most certainly knew, was getting him noticed. So was his moxie. "Charlie got me there," says Hart of the tarp trick. "I said to myself, If I ever have a chance to hire this guy, I'm going to do it."