The Manuels have lived in only three houses but have had "a lot of addresses," Renette said. The six-year stint in Montreal coaching for Alou has been the longest stop of Manuel's career.

"I don't tell anybody it's easy," Renette said. "We're fighters, and we're committed. We have values, guidelines, that we don't compromise."

After clinging to a diminished life through the summer, Lorenzo Manuel died Oct. 29 (Jerry's mother, Mildred, suffered a heart attack last week but is expected to recover). That was three days after the Marlins won the World Series.

In one of their last conversations, Manuel told his father he had been asked to interview for a job as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' first manager. He also passed along a rumor that he was under consideration by the White Sox.

"He kind of put his hands together and moved his thumbs a little bit," Manuel said. "That was all he could move. I felt then that he knew that was where I wanted to be, in Chicago."

Manuel didn't believe he was a serious candidate with the Devil Rays. Nevertheless, he impressed General Manager Chuck LaMar enough in his initial interview that he was one of five finalists asked back for a second meeting. He traveled directly from his father's funeral to the Tampa airport, where he met with owner Vince Naimoli, LaMar and others on the Devil Rays' search committee.

"Jerry Manuel could not have been more impressive in the interview process," LaMar said. "There's an air of class and dignity surrounding Jerry that is hard to put into words. When you're around him, the more you're around him, the more you know he's going to treat people in a professional yet very fair way. . . . With Jerry, the players and staff will know what they're going to get day in and day out."

Manuel knew that whichever candidate was hired would have to throw himself immediately into the process of helping put together and promote the new American League team. The expansion draft was less than a week away.

"I told (Renette) I didn't know if I was mentally ready to do that," Manuel said. "At that time, I was very drained. I was empty, but at the same time I felt very good about what went on in the interview."

Manuel hadn't been home long before he got a call from LaMar. He told him that the Devil Rays had decided to hire Florida pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

"It was almost a relief," Manuel said. "I was sad in a way that I didn't get it, but on the other hand I was relieved. I was praying and hoping the White Sox would give me an interview. After I didn't get the Tampa job, Jim Leyland called, Felipe called. They both said it took them six, seven, eight interviews (to get hired). I knew it would not take me that long if somebody considered me a candidate, because I was ready."

Major impact

Like Tommy Lasorda, Sparky Anderson and Tony La Russa before him, Manuel hopes to have an impact as a manager that eluded him as a player.

When he was drafted in 1972, Manuel was rated a hotter property than catcher Gary Carter, then-infielder Chet Lemon, second baseman Willie Randolph and pitchers Dennis Eckersley, Dennis Leonard and John Candelaria--all of whom were drafted with subsequent picks. Yet 14 professional seasons yielded only 127 at-bats in 96 major-league games with the Tigers, Expos and San Diego Padres.

"When I was in Triple A, I was a good defensive player and clutch hitter," Manuel said. "I was always able to drive in big runs. When I went to the big leagues, I wasn't a good hitter at all. It didn't matter that I was for some reason blessed with the ability to hit when the game is on the line. When you get to the big-league level, a guy with my ability, they have a guy to pinch-hit for you."

Manuel reached Triple-A Evansville in his third minor-league season. But he would spend parts of the next six seasons playing there, helping a team managed by Leyland win the American Association title in 1979. He was passed on the way to a long career at Tiger Stadium by second baseman Lou Whitaker, who came in the 1975 draft, and shortstop Alan Trammell, who followed a year later.

"Those guys were extraordinary players," Manuel said. "I was a guy who was hoping to get a chance. But I loved to play baseball and I liked Evansville."

Manuel started the 1981 season with the Expos but hurt his left knee on May 1, blocking Mike Scioscia off the bag on a hard slide into second base. He would be out until September but earned a spot on manager Jim Fanning's postseason roster.

Despite his lack of playing time throughout the season, it was Manuel--and not teammates Andre Dawson, Gary Carter, Larry Parrish or Warren Cromartie--who called a team meeting before the strike-created divisional series against Philadelphia.

"Manager Dallas Green had come out with a statement that the Montreal Expos would choke," Manuel said. "I said, `That guy's not going to come here and tell us we're going to choke, not when we're playing in our back yard.' "