PHILADELPHIA – With Charlie Manuel seated to his left, Ruben Amaro Jr. broke down in tears after announcing he fired his manager.
It was that emotional for the general manager and many associated with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Manuel was let go Friday after a disastrous second half, ending the most successful run in club history. Hall of Famer and former Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg, the Phillies' third-base coach, replaced Manuel for the start of a 10-game homestand.
"You people may not know the relationship I've had with Charlie. He's a special person. This is difficult for me. I hope he stays in our organization," said Amaro, who took over as GM after Manuel led the Phillies to the World Series title in 2008.
The 69-year-old Manuel, the winningest manager in club history, was in the final year of his contract and wanted to manage another two or three seasons.
"I never quit nothing, and I didn't resign," Manuel said, making it clear he was pushed out the door.
Manuel had been a folksy presence in the Phillies' dugout since the beginning of the 2005 season. He wasn't a popular choice in Philadelphia when former GM Ed Wade hired him to replace Larry Bowa, but he became a beloved figure in a tough city.
"I think we're all a little upset, a little sad," Chase Utley said. "It's not easy to see the guy you play for, for 9 years, not behind the batting cage right now watching batting practice. It's difficult."
Sandberg managed the Phillies' Triple-A team at Lehigh Valley the previous two seasons. He was part of one the most lopsided trades in sports history when the Phillies traded him and Bowa to the Cubs for shortstop Ivan DeJesus in 1982.
"I must say that, for me, I recognize this day as Charlie Manuel Day," Sandberg said at his first news conference. "What he's meant to the Philadelphia Phillies' organization, what he's meant to the fans, the championships, the World Series, he's tops in the organization for what he did here."
Amaro said Sandberg takes over on an interim basis and would be evaluated after the season. Sandberg inherits a team that's 5-19 since the All-Star break and is 20½ games out of first place.
Manuel won his 1,000th game as manager on Monday in Atlanta. Two days later, he sat in the dugout knowing it would be his last game after Amaro informed him of the decision not to extend his contract.
Manuel led Philadelphia to the franchise's second World Series title in '08 and brought the team back to the series in 2009, when they lost to the Yankees in six games.
Manuel was 780-636 with the Phillies and won five straight NL East titles from 2007-2011. He also spent three years as manager with the Cleveland Indians, winning the AL Central in 2001.
Even with an aging roster, the Phillies were expected to contend in the NL East this season, but the team has fallen apart.
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay has missed most of the season with an injury. Slugger Ryan Howard also has been out with an injury. High-priced reliever Jonathan Papelbon has struggled to close, and apart from Utley and Dominic Brown, the Phillies haven't hit much.