The phrase “out of left field” originated long before Manny Ramirez made it to the majors, yet it seems like it was coined with him in mind. Ramirez is the latest – and arguably the zaniest – quirky character to play for the Red Sox, a franchise that has employed the likes of Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Jackie Jensen, a talented outfielder whose fear of flying cut short his career, and high strung Jimmy Piersall, who in the bio pic “Fear Strikes Out” was portrayed as climbing the backstop during a nervous breakdown. Ramirez is also the most talented hitter to toil in Beantown since Ted Williams.
Among Ramirez’s more notable eccentricities is his penchant for disappearing behind the Green Monster at Fenway Park when the Sox bring in a reliever in mid-inning, possibly to relieve himself. He named his two oldest sons Manny Jr. and reportedly has multiple Social Security numbers and more than one driver’s license. Early in his career, he would go through teammates’ lockers and take bats and clothes for good luck. He once told the Red Sox he was too sick to play in a key series against the Yankees and then was spotted having a post-game drink with Bronx Bombers’ infielder Enrique Wilson. At least in that incident he told the Red Sox he wasn’t showing up. Each spring, Ramirez’s reporting date is a mystery to the Boston brass. His teammates describe this kind of behavior as “Manny being Manny.”
Ramirez has asked the Red Sox to trade him to numerous teams, including Boston’s AAA team in Pawtucket, R.I. In 2005, he went public with demands to be shipped out of the Hub City. The Red Sox attempted to move him after the season but couldn’t find an acceptable deal. After the 2003 season, the Red Sox put him irrevocable waivers, meaning all a team had to was agree to pay his $20 million annual salary and they could have him, but there were no takers. They also tried unsuccessfully to deal him to Texas for Alex Rodriguez during that off-season.
Ramirez is a poor and often indifferent outfielder, and sometimes he seems lost running the bases. So why would a major-league team put up with all the oddball antics, shoddy fielding and clueless base running? Well, because the guy can flat out rake. Beginning in 1998, Ramirez drove in at least 100 runs a season for nine straight seasons. His career average is over .310, and he entered the 2007 season as a 34-year-old with 470 career homers, so he has a good shot at finishing with at least 600 career long balls. His best season was with Cleveland in 1999 when he hit .333, belted 44 homers and plated 165 runners.
Born on May 30, 1972 in the Dominican Republic, Ramirez was raised in New York City. He was the star player at prep powerhouse George Washington High School. He hit 14 homers in just 22 games as a senior in 1991and batted .615. He was named New York City Public Schools High School Player of the Year, and in June the Cleveland Indians drafted him in the first round with the No. 13 pick overall.
Ramirez rose quickly through the Indians’ system, reaching the majors as a September call-up in 1993, a season in which Baseball America named him Minor League Player of the Year. The next season, he played 91 games with the big club, hit 17 homers, batted a respectable .269 and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to Royals’ designated hitter Bob Hamelin. The 1995 season served as his break-out year as he made the American League All-Star team and hit 308 with 31 homers and 107 RBI. He became the 25th player in major league history to hit .300 with a 30-homer, 100-RBI season at the age of 23 or younger, and he helped the Indians reach their first World Series since 1954. He played a key role again in 1997 when the Indians again reached the World Series and almost won it – losing the seventh game to Florida in extra innings.
After the 2000 season, Ramirez became a free agent and in a rare situation, his agent Jeff Moorad allowed ESPN cameras inside access to negotiations. Moorad, who now runs the Arizona Diamondbacks, was shooting for a $200 million deal but had to settle for an eight-year, $160 million pact with the Red Sox.
Ramirez’s quirkiness was seldom a source of controversy in Cleveland, but in Red Sox “Nation”, his personality ticks garnered greater media scrutiny. He has expressed regrets at leaving Cleveland and its low-key atmosphere. His relationship with the fans in Boston has run hot and cold, but he’s mostly revered. Ramirez was the World Series MVP in 2004 when the Red Sox won the Fall Classic for the first time since 1918 and with that, he will always have a place in the hearts of New Englanders. His relationship with the local media also is hot/cold. He seldom talks with them, but he’s not confrontational, and his antics provide them with great material. Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, who has often blasted Ramirez, points out that with the outfielder’s numbers, it is impossible for fans to dislike him. Shaughnessy should know – his son Sam wore Ramirez’s No. 24 as a high school baseball player in deference to the Red Sox left fielder.
Ramirez on the Web
Boston Red Sox: Official page
Boston Red Sox page; contains short bio, career stats, and links to recent video highlights.
Rotoworld.com player page
Roto World page; contains career stats, and updates on impact as a fantasy player.
Mannyramirez.com home page
Ramirez’s own web site: bio, stats, hitting tips, photo gallery, links to news stories.
YouTube: Manny Ramirez
Videos of the left fielder in action, in the dugout, and scratching himself between pitches.
Latest on Ramirez
Ramirez was slowed by injuires in 2007 and was having -- for him – a subpar season but hoping to be healthy for October as Boston fought for the American League East title.
News and Commentary
The New Yorker: Waiting for Manny
In an April 2007 profile, the euridite magazine describes Ramirez as a modern day “folk hero.”
Sports Truth: In Boston, Manny Ramirez era like no other
This 2006 article captures highlights and lowlights of Ramirez’s time in Boston.
New York Times: Boys Who Made Good, and One Who Made Great
The Times drops in on a few of Ramirez’s boyhood teammates during the 2003 ALCS.
The Onion: Manny Ramirez Asks Red Sox If He Can Work From Home
The spoof paper has the Red Sox agreeing to let Ramirez try telecommuting.
On winning the 2004 World Series MVP
“I went through a lot of drama during the winter, but I keep my mind positive and I told my wife before the season started, ‘Hey, baby, this is going to be my year. This is the year.’ And we did it, man. We're the champs.”
On Boston’s approach in 2004
“We are a bunch of idiots that we go out to have fun and we don't think -- we eliminate thinking, and we have fun and pick each other up.”
On playing in Boston
"I ain't got no problem in Boston, I especially like the attention. I know that I'm one of the top guys in this game and all the attention is on me, I got a lot of people on my shoulder but I'm human. I like to go. I like to have fun. I like to do this and that but I gotta represent Boston and the Red Sox in every way that I do outside this game. ... Like I said I get paid to play baseball no [matter] where I go to play I still gotta go and perform even if I like it or not."
On hitting cleanup
"It doesn't matter where I hit. I'm Manny Ramirez, so it doesn't matter."