During the Phillies run to the World Series last year, Chase Utley had a line for players who might have been playing tight under pressure: "Get the rubber duck out of your [rear]."
Sure enough, Manuel picked up on it. And during the World Series, every Phillies player had a rubber duck delivered to his locker. Some of them were even customized to fit the personality of the player, like a skull-and-crossbones on the duck belonging to heavy-metal fan Brett Myers.
Episodes like that one helped convince reliever Scott Eyre, who had just joined the Phillies a few months earlier, that Manuel is the last man he ever wants to manage him.
"I don't want to play anywhere else next year, because of him," Eyre told FanHouse. "He wants you to relax and have fun all the time."
Manuel was fired as the Indians manager and seemed to be on the verge of getting fired by the Phillies early in 2007. Since then, all he's done is win three division titles and a World Series. Tied 1-1 in the National League Championship Series heading into Game 3 on Sunday in Philadelphia, the Phillies are trying to become the first team to repeat since the 1998-2000 Yankees. He is the first manager to lead the Phillies to four consecutive winning seasons since Danny Ozark from 1975-78.
Lots of champagne has been poured in the Phillies clubhouse over the past three years, but Manuel has avoided most of it. His policy is to stay in his office during those postgame celebrations to let the players have their moment.
"I don't think Charlie wants the recognition," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "It's about the players with him. We're only as good and smart as how our players perform."
Ask around about what makes Manuel a good manager and you hear mostly about his people skills.
"I just think more than anything else he's got a very steady demeanor," Amaro said. "The players know exactly what to expect from him day to day. He creates a positive working atmosphere."
Matt Stairs, who has played for enough managers during his nomadic 11-team, 17-year career to be an expert, said Manuel is the classic "old school" manager. In a good way.
"How many people around here know what an old school manager is? I don't think anyone knows," Stairs said. "Is it a guy who is going to challenge his players to a fight, or sit there and let his players play? ... He understands all the players."
Eyre compared Manuel to Felipe Alou.
"He just loves the game of baseball, and being at the field with the guys," Eyre said. "All he wants to do is be at the ballpark every day. He wants to win, but he wants you to have fun and enjoy it at the same time."
Manuel, 65, may not get as much credit for his strategy as he does for being the friendly grandfather in the manager's office. However, Amaro said that the way Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee handled a mess of a bullpen, without letting it tear the team apart, was worthy of some praise.
"He's been creative in trying to get through some of the stuff," Amaro said. "Things don't work out perfectly. These are people, not robots."
Eyre said the Phillies relievers learned early in the year that Manuel was going to use anyone at any time. Whatever it took to get the job done.
"He caught me off guard once," Eyre said. "I think he warmed me up in the fifth. After that, I'm ready to go all the time. Now, we know it's going to be that way."
Manuel coaxed Brad Lidge through his awful season, always finding the right mix between showing confidence in his pitcher, but not leaving him out too much to the detriment of the team. In the Game 4 Division Series clincher against the Rockies, Manuel had Eyre start the ninth to face two left-handed hitters, but then he brought in Lidge to face right-hander Troy Tulowitzki.
His moves didn't work so well against the Dodgers in Game 2, but that was mostly because of bad breaks and bad defense.
As Manuel has found success in the big leagues after not getting his first shot at a big-league managing job until he'd spent 10 years in the minors and six as a hitting coach with the Indians, he has earned admirers among his peers.
"I'm happy for him," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "I don't think any of us knows when the good times are going to happen for us. But I don't think he's ever changed one bit with the success he's had here in recent years, and I'm happy for him, because I know how thrilling it is, even though you have to wait a long time for it."