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Phillies absorb heartache too

Before Game 2, Manuel learns his mother died, and after the win Victorino is told his grandmother died.

October 11, 2008|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel sat in his office, alone with his thoughts.

A few feet away outfielder Shane Victorino sat shirtless in front of his locker, heaving a sigh and staring, for what seemed to be an eternity, at nothing in particular.

The Phillies had just won Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, beating the Dodgers, 8-5, to move a giant step closer to the World Series. But there was little celebrating in the Philadelphia clubhouse because the Phillies' family suffered losses Friday that go beyond the locker room.

Early that morning the Phillies learned that Manuel's 87-year-old mother had died in Virginia. Then after the game they were told that Victorino's 82-year-old grandmother had died in Hawaii.

"It's an emotional time," said Victorino, his eyes red and his voice cracking. "But it's all about baseball right now. That's what we're focused on.

"You're guaranteed one thing in life, that's death. She's in a better place."

Manuel's mother June, widowed 45 years and living in the same home where she raised Charlie and his 10 siblings, died three days after suffering a heart attack. After getting the news, Manuel, who was particularly close to his mother, canceled most of his pregame activities and briefly thought about skipping the team flight to Los Angeles this morning before eventually rejoining the team on the field for batting practice.

"It's a heavy heart," said Dodger Manager Joe Torre, who managed the Yankees to a World Series title one season while his brother Frank was undergoing a heart transplant. "Charlie was telling me how he talked to his mom on a regular basis. And her concern for him to go out there and win ballgames."

In Friday's game, which Phillies starter Brett Myers dedicated to Manuel, Victorino played a major role, becoming the first Phillie in 25 years to drive in four runs in an NLCS game, then making a leaping catch at the wall with two on and two out in the seventh inning to preserve an 8-5 lead.

But when he got back to the clubhouse, his father Mike was waiting for him, telling him that his grandmother Irene, who had been in poor health, had died hours earlier.

"Maybe she helped me make the catch. Maybe Charlie's mom helped me make the catch," Victorino said. "You've got to look at the positives in life."

Victorino said he talked with his grandmother Thursday night by phone. "For some reason when I called her, she would always be upbeat," he said. "Last night she wasn't very happy. I could tell."

As Victorino gathered himself by his locker, several teammates came by, wrapping him in hugs or whispering in his ear.

"It's hard to put it in words, but in life things happen," said Phillies hitting coach Milt Thompson, who said the personal losses Manuel and Victorino felt put baseball in perspective. "It's going to be a tough couple of days here. And we'll have to regroup."

Thompson lost his mother at the start of spring training two years ago and said he was devastated, but losing himself in baseball helped him get through it. Victorino is hoping the Phillies' playoff run will do the same for him and Manuel.

"It's about baseball. I'm still smiling about that. We won the game," said Victorino, flashing a wan, unconvincing grin. "At the end of the day, it's about what she would want me to do. And she would want me to stay with the team and help this win. I'm sure Charlie's mom was the same way."


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