Red Lion resident Sam Steckline, left, had Phillies manager Charlie Manuel sign his Phils-themed urn Wednesday at the York Sports Night celebrity
Red Lion resident Sam Steckline, left, had Phillies manager Charlie Manuel sign his Phils-themed urn Wednesday at the York Sports Night celebrity reception. (Daily Record/Sunday News -- Bil Bowden)

Sam Steckline stood in line waiting for Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel to sign his urn. Asked about his unusual autograph request, the Red Lion resident smiled.

"I'm a diehard Phillies fan," he said.

Steckline, 56, purchased the red, white and blue Phillies-themed urn from an online company, Eternal Image, which also sells Star Trek and Major League Baseball-themed caskets. The aluminum urn, with a manufacturer's suggested retail of $799, features a base in the shape of home plate and a baseball on top.

Despite being flanked at the York Sports Night celebrity reception at Heritage Hills Golf Resort and Conference Center by Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry and Hall of Fame receiver Raymond Berry, Manuel received the most attention.

The line of fans waiting for Phillies manager Charlie Manuel’s autograph stretched across the room at Heritage Hills.
The line of fans waiting for Phillies manager Charlie Manuel's autograph stretched across the room at Heritage Hills. (Daily Record/Sunday News -- Bil Bowden)
The line for his autograph stretched to the room's entrance, with about 75 people waiting for the skipper to sign bats, balls and photos.

And one urn, the final resting spot for Sam Steckline.

"That's my team," said Steckline, who hopes to be cremated after his death. "I don't feel like wasting land. So I'm all set when I die."

Organizers who realized what Steckline had in his hand, experienced a nervous moment when Manuel tipped the urn on its side to sign his autograph.

"I thought something was going to spill out all over the table," Sports Night's longtime emcee George Trout joked afterward.

Steckline wants to have each of the living Phillies enshrined in Cooperstown autograph his urn -- Steve Carlton has already signed it -- but Steckline made a special exception for Manuel.


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"It says 'World Series Champions 2008' on it, and who knows?" Steckline said. "It could be the last time I see them win it."

Asked about the urn, Manuel didn't look up from his autograph duties to note: "That's a first."

The Phillies skipper seems unfazed by the sudden stardom brought on by his team's unexpected playoff run. The Phillies' only other World Series championship came in 1980.

"Just meeting the fans," Manuel said. "And watching them. And seeing them. I think it was one of the biggest things of my life. You realized how much they loved it.

"Hey, nothing will ever top that parade we had. It was just absolutely fantastic."

Pegged by detractors as a country bumpkin when he and his Virginia twang arrived in Philly as a special assistant to the general manager in 2003, he has become a beloved character.

Manuel, to his credit, hasn't tried to change. He still sounds the same way. He still travels back to his hometown of Buena Vista (pronounced Bue-nah Vest-ah) near Roanoke, Va., in the offseason.

"Where I grew up, I wouldn't trade it for nothing in the world," he said. "I think it's part of who I am. I had a tremendous -- what do you call that? -- a tremendous childhood. Any time I get a chance to go back there, it's exciting. And when we win a World Series, it makes it more enjoyable. Everyone wants to see you, everyone wants to talk about it, and I've seen people I haven't seen in years."

The World Series skipper still hasn't won a coach of the year award. He's never mentioned as one of the game's best tacticians. But he seems content with his current turn in the spotlight. He's confident the final questions about the 2009 season will be answered. The loss of left fielder Pat Burrell will be "offset" by the signing of Raul Ibanez, he said. And "whatever (Ryan Howard) gets (in arbitration), he's definitely worth it."

He's the manager of the world champions. People bring him mementos, and yes -- even urns -- to sign. And it sounds like he's loving it.

"I've heard people say that we backed in or the Mets choked," Manuel said. "You know that's so far from the truth that it's unreal. ... They can take that and put that in their pipe and smoke it."

jseip@ydr.com; 771-2004