Manny being Manny: A closer look
Ramirez returns to Fenway Park on Friday night
Manny Ramirez's 7 1/2 seasons in Boston were full of hitting heroics, controversy and entertainment. With Ramirez making his return to Fenway Park on Friday night as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, here is a chronological glimpse at Ramirez's most memorable -- and infamous -- moments in a Sox uniform.
Dec. 15, 2000:
The Red Sox break the bank and sign free-agent Ramirez to an eight-year, $160 million contract -- the largest contract in club history. Largely silent during his time in Cleveland, Ramirez shows his personality at the press conference unveiling at Fenway, giving a memorable smile and two thumbs up to the cameras.
April 6, 2001:
In Ramirez's home opener with the Red Sox, he unloads for a three-run homer on the first pitch he sees against Tampa Bay, thrilling the Fenway faithful.
April 13, 2001:
Ramirez enters the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry in dramatic fashion, belting a walk-off single against the great Mariano Rivera to give the Red Sox a 3-2 win in 10 innings.
May 11, 2002:
Ramirez fractures his left index finger sliding head-first into home at Safeco Field in Seattle. He doesn't play again for the Red Sox until June 25. During his Minor League rehab, Ramirez memorably loses an expensive diamond-encrusted earring during another head-first dive.
Sept. 9, 2002:
In a 6-3 win at Tampa Bay, Ramirez hits a dribbler to the mound and doesn't bother to run to first base. Media and fans both express surprise that manager Grady Little didn't bench Ramirez for his lack of hustle. Little admits that he stayed up all night thinking about it and regrets not taking Ramirez out of the game. The slugger gets fined an undisclosed amount of money.
Sept. 29, 2002:
With the Red Sox out of the pennant race, Ramirez goes 0-for-1 in the season finale against Tampa Bay, but clinches his first career batting title, finishing the season at .349. Still hurt by the media coverage of his failure to run out the tapper back to the mound earlier in the month, he isn't quoted by any outlet about winning the batting title.
July 12, 2003:
Ramirez gives up his spot on the All-Star team because of left hamstring soreness -- an injury that wasn't preventing him from playing for the Red Sox. The next day, he is granted permission by Little to fly home to Miami instead of going to the Red Sox-Tigers game -- the last game before the All-Star break -- because his mother is ill. Ramirez later says that his mother fainted while doing some gardening out in the heat.
Aug. 13, 2003:
With the Red Sox in danger of losing three out of four in a key Wild Card showdown at Oakland, Ramirez belts a game-tying solo shot in the top of the ninth against future teammate Keith Foulke, leading his team to a victory that gives Boston a one-game lead in the standings.
Aug. 29-31, 2003:
A couple of weeks after Pedro Martinez misses a start with a throat illness called pharyngitis, Ramirez claims to have the exact same condition and misses a critical three-game series against the Yankees. However, the next day, despite being too ill to go to the ballpark, Ramirez is spotted socializing with Yankees utilityman Enrique Wilson at the restaurant of the Ritz Hotel. Ramirez then blows off a scheduled doctor's appointment at Fenway Park, which had been scheduled the day of the Sunday afternoon finale against New York. The Red Sox lose two out of three without Ramirez's big bat.
Sept. 1, 2003:
Ramirez returns to work for a Labor Day make-up game in Philadelphia. However, with the game on the line, Ramirez tells Little he is too weak to pinch-hit. Without Ramirez, the Red Sox pull off perhaps their most memorable comeback victory of the season, fueled by a grand slam by Trot Nixon in the top of the ninth.
Sept. 2, 2003:
With the blessing of the front office and ownership, Little announces that he is benching Ramirez for the opener of a two-game series at Chicago against the White Sox. "I'm putting the team out there that I think gives us the best chance to win tonight," said Little. The Red Sox get just two hits in the game -- both homers -- and one of them by Ramirez's replacement, Gabe Kapler. They win the game, 2-1. Ramirez returns to the lineup the next night and stays there without incident the rest of the season. Meanwhile, the Red Sox start to catch fire as a team and go on to clinch their first postseason berth in four years.
Oct. 6, 2003:
In a winner-take-all Game 5 of the Division Series at Oakland, Ramirez unloads for a tiebreaking three-run homer to left against Barry Zito, who had been brilliant up to that point. As Ramirez starts his home run trot, he points with glee to his teammates in the Boston dugout. The Red Sox hang on for dear life in the late innings and advance to the American League Championship Series, completing their comeback from an 0-2 deficit in the series. Ramirez's hit proves to be the difference in the game.
Oct. 8, 2003:
Ramirez continues to make his late-season mishaps a distant memory, playing a starring role (four hits, including a homer) in Boston's 5-2 win at Yankee Stadium in Game 1 of the ALCS. He hit .310 with two homers and four RBIs in the seven-game epic, but the Red Sox lose the series in heartbreaking fashion.
Oct. 30, 2003:
In a stunning turn of events, word leaks out that the Red Sox place Ramirez on irrevocable waivers, meaning any team in the Majors can pick him up if it is willing to pay the balance of his contract, which, at the time, is five years and $104 million. There are no takers, and Ramirez remains with the Red Sox.
Dec. 17, 2003:
The Red Sox nearly trade Ramirez to the Texas Rangers for Alex Rodriguez in what would have been one of the most star-studded blockbuster trades of all-time. However, the deal falls through when the Players Association rejects the proposed restructuring of A-Rod's contract. While Rodriguez is traded to the Yankees a couple of months later, Ramirez stays with the team that tried to trade him. Ramirez says he felt like he had "nine toes in Texas."
Feb. 25, 2004:
Ramirez reports to camp, but doesn't seem thrilled to still be with the Red Sox. With new manager Terry Francona set to address his team as a unit for the first time, Ramirez initially threatens to blow off the meeting. Francona talks him into attending, and things smooth over for a bit.
March 7, 2004:
With a circus-like atmosphere for Boston's home Spring Training game against the Yankees -- it is the first time A-Rod has seen the Red Sox since he was nearly traded to Boston in December -- Ramirez surprisingly talks to the media for the first time in months. Remarkably relaxed with teammate Kevin Millar serving as a mock moderator, Ramirez induces laughter from teammates and media members. He stays in a happy place for much of the 2004 season, doing more interviews that year than in his first three years in Boston combined.
May 11, 2004:
Again showing a more outgoing personality, Ramirez returns to Fenway for the first time after becoming a United States Citizen. He takes the field against the Indians waving a small American flag. The Fenway Park crowd applauds wildly. As for passing the test to become and American citizen? The test "wasn't that hard," Ramirez said. "You just have to go and study the questions."
July 12-17, 2004:
More All-Star controversy for Ramirez, who claims on the Sunday before the break that he has soreness in both hamstrings and can't play. Red Sox ace Curt Schilling is caught on camera during batting practice airing out Ramirez. The left fielder is healthy enough to start the All-Star Game and hits a home run against Roger Clemens to help lead the American League to victory. But in the first game after the break, Ramirez switches from left field to DH at the last minute. The next night, he is again too sore to play, but does manage a pinch-hit single. He sits out the next two games before returning in Seattle.
July 21, 2004:
During a 10-5 loss to the Orioles, Baltimore's David Newhan hits one to the gap that center fielder Johnny Damon eventually tracks down. With Newhan racing around the bases, Ramirez inexplicably cuts Damon's throw off from the outfield, a near unprecedented move. Newhan winds up with an inside-the-park home run. The Red Sox don't know quite what to make of Ramirez's unorthodox play. "I think I make a pretty strong throw, maybe a one-hopper to third and all of a sudden, I see him come out of nowhere and just dive and I mean ... I would have laughed if the guy hadn't hit an inside the parker," Damon said. "I got the heat for that, needing two cutoff men. I was like, 'Well, I really didn't need Manny there.' It definitely would have one-hopped third."
Oct. 27, 2004:
The Red Sox clinch their first World Series championship in 86 years, and Ramirez is named Most Valuable Player of the Fall Classic. "First, there was a lot of negative stuff. I was going to get traded. But I kept my confidence in myself and I believe in me and I believe in me," Ramirez said. "I'm just blessed. I proved a lot of people wrong. I knew I could do this. Thanks, God, I did it." As for the Red Sox ending their 86-year-old "curse"? "I don't believe in curses," Ramirez said. "I believe you make your own destination."
Oct. 30, 2004:
One of the lasting images from Boston's euphoric World Series parade is Ramirez on one of the duck boats with a cardboard sign that says, "Jeter is playing golf today, this is better!". As part of Boston's run to the championship, they came back from 3-0 in the ALCS to beat the Yankees in seven games.
Feb. 23, 2005:
For one of the few Spring Trainings in his time with the Red Sox, Ramirez arrives a happy camper, still riding the euphoria of the World Series. "It's a great thing, man. It's like, everywhere you go, people want your autograph, and [say], 'I'm from Boston, this and that.' I was in Brazil, nobody knew nothing about baseball out there." Predictably, Ramirez's happiness doesn't last all that much longer. He soon starts another prolonged media shutdown.
May 15, 2005:
Ramirez belts career home run No. 400 against the Mariners at Safeco Field. "Just another home run," Ramirez said, breaking his media boycott for a day. "That's a great moment in my life, but tomorrow it doesn't mean nothing. I'm just going back and trying to hit No. 11 [of the season]."
July 19, 2005:
Ramirez takes a visit into the Green Monster during a pitching change, and barely gets to his position in time when the game resumes. Legend has it, he was taking a bathroom break.
July 27, 2005:
A day after Nixon is forced out of the lineup with a left oblique strain, Ramirez tells bench coach Brad Mills that he doesn't feel like giving up his scheduled day off at Tampa Bay. Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling is so incensed that he gets into a heated argument with Ramirez in the clubhouse. The confrontation nearly becomes physical, and the players have to be separated.
July 28, 2005:
Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci reports that Ramirez has become increasingly unhappy in Boston and wants the Red Sox to trade him.
July 29-July 30, 2005:
The Red Sox spend the last two days before the Trade Deadline trying to find a match for Ramirez. A trade with the Mets is heavily discussed, but ultimately a deal can't be worked out. Meanwhile, Ramirez is booed by the Fenway faithful repeatedly during the opener of a three-game series against the Twins. He doesn't play the next night.
July 31, 2005:
The day starts with Kevin Millar walking Ramirez into Francona's office while the media is holding their daily interview. With Millar serving as mock moderator, soliciting questions from reporters, Ramirez playfully engages in the banter and says he has no hard feelings toward Francona. He says his goal is to help the Red Sox win back-to-back World Series.
While Francona doesn't start Ramirez that day, giving him a mental health day of sorts, he calls on the slugger in the bottom of the eighth inning to pinch-hit. As if it had been scripted, Ramirez drills a game-winning hit up the middle and the crowd roars with delight. Don Orsillo, calling the game for NESN, proclaimed, "Manny's back, and he's back big!" Ramirez has a superb finish to the season, helping the Red Sox to their third consecutive Wild Card berth.
March 1, 2006:
After yet another winter in which he requests a trade, Ramirez at last reports to camp, later than all of his teammates. The Red Sox made a compromise with him, allowing him to be late if he agreed to not play in the World Baseball Classic and put his focus on preparing for the 2006 season. The parking lot is packed with cameras as Ramirez walks in, wearing a Raiders football jersey.
Normally humorous during the rare occasions he speaks with the media, Ramirez has a bit of a chip on his shoulder this time. "Let me get this straight, I don't want no questions about the trade rumors, the winter, this and that; you guys want to talk about baseball or whatever, I'm open to talk," Ramirez said. "We could talk all day. I'm here, you know. I don't live in the past, I live in the present. That's it. This is a new year, I'm here. People want me to come back, people want me here, so I'm just going to move on. I'm just going to come and do my job. I get paid to play baseball, that's why I'm here. That's it, what else can I say?"
July 7, 2006:
What would the days leading up to the All-Star break be without Ramirez stirring up some controversy? Just like in 2003, he gives up his spot on the team, this time complaining of right knee tendinitis. He releases a statement, marking his first quoted words of any time since his Spring Training address.
Aug. 18-end of 2006 season:
With the Red Sox playing out the final game of a gruesome five-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, Ramirez asks out of the game in the fifth inning with right hamstring cramping.
Controversy swirls with Ramirez for the rest of the season. As the Red Sox fall out of the race, Ramirez barely plays, complaining of leg pain. He is buried by fans and the media. During a difficult stretch when David Ortiz is dealing with an irregular heartbeat and Jon Lester gets a chilling cancer diagnosis, the Red Sox make little to no effort to come to Ramirez's defense.
Feb. 26, 2007:
No joke. Ramirez reports late to Spring Training yet again. He keeps alive his near year-long stretch of not being quoted by a reporter by declining to speak on the first day of camp.
March 20, 2007:
In one of the more playful Manny-being-Manny moments, the outfielder puts his gas grill on eBay. ESPN airs a segment about it while the Red Sox are in the clubhouse. Teammates laugh hysterically and start giving Ramirez a hard time. "I'm a businessman, I've got to make a little money," Ramirez hollered to teammate Doug Mirabelli.
Oct. 5, 2007:
Though Ramirez had just completed his most so-so regular season in a Boston uniform, he shows nearly from the outset that the postseason will be a different story. Ramirez belts an absolute rocket of a walk-off homer against star Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. He stuns everyone by holding a playful post-game press conference. "It feels great," said Ramirez. "It's been a long time since I've done something special like that. I haven't been right all year. But, I guess when you don't feel good and you still get hits, that's when you know you are a bad man."
Oct. 17, 2007:
In comments that are greatly misunderstood by the national media but defended by teammates, Ramirez's downplays the adversity the Red Sox are in, trailing the Indians, 3-1, in the ALCS. "We're just going to go and play the game, like I've said, and move on. If it doesn't happen, so who cares? There's always next year," Ramirez said. "It's not like the end of the world or something. Why should we panic?" Indeed, there was no panic by the Red Sox. Perhaps loosened up a little by Ramirez, and definitely helped by his production, the Sox come all the way back to win the series in seven games. They go on to sweep the Colorado Rockies in the World Series.
Feb. 27, 2008:
When the Red Sox go to the White House to celebrate winning the World Series, Ramirez declines to attend. Even President George W. Bush can't help but take a good-natured barb at Ramirez's flaky nature. "Manny Ramirez isn't here, I guess his grandmother died again," quipped Bush.
May 31, 2008:
In a magical moment on a Saturday night in Baltimore, Ramirez belts career home run No. 500, a blast to right-center. He seems as genuinely happy as at any point in his time with the Red Sox. Little did anyone know it at that time, but things were about to regress again -- perhaps worse than ever before.
June 6, 2008:
In the first inkling that Ramirez's happiness is starting to wear off, he takes a swing at teammate Kevin Youkilis in the dugout. Youkilis was not amused when Ramirez chastised him for showing too much emotion after an out. Ramirez apologizes the next day, but starts citing leg injuries again. The slugger seems distracted by his uncertain contract status.
June 28, 2008:
Ramirez reaches a new low, shoving widely-respected traveling secretary Jack McCormick to the floor following an apparent dispute over a ticket request. Ramirez apologized to McCormick, but doesn't give much of an explanation during his briefing with reporters.
July 15-23, 2008:
Things start to turn irreversibly bad for Ramirez in a Red Sox uniform when he blasts ownership in an interview with the Boston Herald at the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. "I want to know what's my situation," Ramirez told the Boston Herald. "I want no more [times] where they tell you one thing and behind your back they do another thing. I think I've earned that respect, for a team to sit down with me and tell me this is what we want, this is what we want to do."
Long one of Ramirez's staunchest defenders, Red Sox owner John W. Henry is displeased with the slugger. "I find remarks that we have been anything other than completely straightforward to be personally offensive," Henry wrote in an e-mail to the Herald. "Manny has been a crucial part of two World [Series] championships. I do not believe we would have won either without him. He has never played a more important role than he has thus far this year."
During Boston's West Coast swing immediately after the All-Star break, Ramirez's availability for games becomes a daily question mark as he again starts complaining about leg injuries. Reportedly, Ramirez initially refused to get on to the team bus leaving Anaheim. He eventually relented, and accompanied the Red Sox to Seattle.
July 25-27, 2008:
When the Red Sox come home to face the Yankees, Ramirez tells the club he isn't healthy enough to start against Joba Chamberlain. So outraged are the Red Sox that they order Ramirez to have MRIs taken on both knees when the outfielder feigns ignorance over which one is bothering him. The MRIs come back clean. Ramirez is back in the lineup the next day, but his days in a Boston uniform seem to be winding down. Ramirez says as much before the finale against New York. "I know they've got me, but hey, enough is enough," Ramirez said. "I'm tired of them, they're tired of me. After 2008, just send me a letter or whatever, you don't even have to call my agent or whatever, 'Thank you for everything, you're going to become a free agent, we're not going to pick up your option in '09.'"
July 31, 2008:
In a deadline deal as dramatic as when general manager Theo Epstein traded Nomar Garciaparra four years earlier, he trades Ramirez to the Dodgers as part of a three-team deal that lands Jason Bay in Boston. As reporters stake out Fenway Park during an off-day for the team, Ramirez cleans out his locker and drives his silver Mercedes through the tunnel under the park, declining requests for comment. Just like that, his memorable stint with the Red Sox is over.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.