I had the privilege of being in attendance at Yankee Stadium for Manny’s second game as a pro. He instantly became a favorite of mine. Ramirez, a local product from nearby Manhattan, was a late season call-up for the Cleveland Indians. It was Friday September 3, 1993 and Ramirez had given out at least 100 Cleveland batting practice jerseys, hats and tickets to friends from his Washington Heights neighborhood. They flocked the House that Ruth Built with jubilant cheers in Spanish for Manny. He did not disappoint them.
In his first at-bat in the second inning, Manny doubled to left centerfield and later scored on a single by Felix Fermin. Ramirez hit a fly out to Paul O’Neil playing in left field for New York, to lead off the fourth inning. Then the fireworks started. After teammate Paul Sorrento singled to begin the sixth inning, Manny blasted a two-run home run to left-center field off of Melido Perez for his first career homer. In the eighth inning he hit his second home run off the game and his career off of Paul Gibson to give the Indians a 7 –2 lead. Cleveland would win the game 7 –3 and Manny would finish 3 for 4, with three runs and three RBI’s. A star was born.
Manny’s fans went crazy in the stands unfurling a large Dominican flag and running through Yankee Stadium chanting ‘Manny…Manny” in a scene reminiscent of a European soccer match. Some Yankees fans were offended; because many small brawls ensued between Yankees fans and Ramirez enthusiasts, giving it even more of a Euro soccer game feel. The next day, Jim Abbott threw his famous no-hitter.
Manny Ramirez would go to be named Minor League Player of The Year in 1993. In his first full season, the strike season of 1994, he was snubbed for A.L. Rookie of the Year with the award going instead to Bob Hamlin of the Kansas City Royals. Hamlin could only wish he had the career of Ramirez. Over the next six seasons for the Indians he averaged 36 home runs and 123 RBI’s with a career high 165 RBI’s in 1999. While Manny’s career was spectacular offensively, his defense and hustle were much maligned. He led the league in assists in 1996.
After the 2000 season Ramirez signed a eight year, $160 million dollar deal with the Red Sox on the heels of Alex Rodriguez’s blockbuster deal with the Texas Rangers. In his first at-bat in front of the Fenway Park fans in 2001 he hit a two–run home run to begin a storied Red Sox career. During his first three seasons with Boston he averaged 37HR’s and 112RBI’s while sporting a .326 batting avg. Surprisingly, the Red Sox placed him on unconditional waivers following the 2003 season.
Much was made after Ramirez had lunch with then Yankees infielder Enrique Wilson, a friend from the Dominican Republic, during the 2003 A.L. Championship Series. There were fortunately for the Sox, no takers. I, as a Yankees fan, I thought the Yankees and Joe Torre should have taken that flyer on Ramirez then and incurred the next Yankees curse on the Red Sox. Alas, it was not to be. The Red Sox would go on to win the World Series in 2004 with Manny batting .412 with a homer and four rbi’s in a four game sweep. He was named MVP of that World Series. The Sox won another series last season. This season the Sox soured on Ramirez. His general aloofness was never a problem while the Red Sox were coasting. This season however, with the emergence of the Tampa Bay Rays as a contender and the playoffs not guaranteed, Manny being Manny became tired. There were plenty of highlights and lowlights for Ramirez this season alone.
He hit his 500th career home run. He caught a deep fly to left field, gave a high five to a Red Sox fan, and started a double play relay throw on a game in Baltimore. He engaged in a dugout fig
ht with Kevin Youkilis. This past week, he sat himself out of games
against two hard throwing right hand pitchers on back-to-back days. He came back and homered and doubled the next game.
Ramirez then non-hustled his way through a series with the Angels after basically daring the Red Sox to trade him this week and the Sox obliged.
"The Red Sox don't deserve a player like me. During my years here, I've seen how they [the Red Sox] have mistreated other great players when they didn't want them to try to turn the fans against them. The Red Sox did the same with guys like Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, and now they do the same with me. Their goal is to paint me as the bad guy. I love Boston fans, but the Red Sox don't deserve me. I'm not talking about money. Mental peace has no price, and I don't have peace here." Ramirez in an interview with ESPNdeportes.com 7/30/08
The Red Sox got back Jason Bay
from the Pittsburgh while pitcher Craig Hansen and outfielder Brandon Moss were sent there. The Pirates also received hot third base prospect Adam LaRoche and pitcher Bryan Morris from the Dodgers. Ramirez ended his 7-½ seasons with the Red Sox with a .312 batting average, 274 home runs and 868 RBI’s. During his tenure the Red Sox won as many playoff games as they had the previous 88 years.
No matter how good fellow All-Star Jason Bay turns out to be for the Red Sox, Manny will be missed. Ramirez is a 12 time All-Star, and has won 9 Silver Slugger Awards. Joe Torre missed his turn to manage Manny a few years ago, but I look for a revived Manny Ramirez to put the Dodgers over the top in the N.L. West. Torre, a players manager can handle Manny being Manny. It’s pure Hollywood.