So Manny memories
Slugger provided numerous highlights -- on and off field
BOSTON -- One of the most enigmatic players to wear a Red Sox uniform -- make that any uniform -- Manny Ramirez will be remembered in New England for big hits, big controversies, big hair and overall goofiness.
The future Hall of Fame slugger was dealt away to the Dodgers on Thursday, but he leaves quite a legacy in Boston, serving as a key player in the Red Sox's first two World Series championships since 1918.
When the definitive history of Ramirez's Boston years -- 2001-08 -- is written, three words will come to mind first: Manny being Manny.
It pretty much summed up his unique prowess as a hitter, his unpredictable demeanor and his blooper reel plays in left field.
Who else could make a leaping catch in left field, high-five a random fan sitting in the stands and then throw back to the infield for an inning-ending double play?
Ramirez did just that on May 14 of this season at Camden Yards.
"I think that's part of the game," Ramirez said after the game. "This is a game -- you've got to go enjoy it and have fun."
Then, there was that night of July 21, 2004, when center fielder Johnny Damon fielded a carom off the wall on a ball hit by Baltimore's David Newhan, and threw to the cutoff man. But, in perhaps Ramirez's zaniest play, he became the cutoff man, making a diving snag of Damon's throw. Newhan never stopped running, producing an inside-the-park homer.
Earlier this season, Damon reflected on the moment, still trying to contain his laughter.
"I got the heat for that, needing two cutoff men," Damon said. "I was like, 'Well, I really didn't need Manny there.' It definitely would have one-hopped third. Hopefully, one of these days we can see the overhead of that play and just kind of see how everything converged and happened. It's pretty funny."
Back in December 2000, then-Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette signed Ramirez to an eight-year, $160 million deal, creating excitement for a championship-starved fan base.
The one constant with Ramirez during his time with the Sox is that he never stopped hitting. In his seven full years with Boston, Ramirez hit above .300 five times, while topping the 30-homer and 100 RBIs barrier six times. He had a very good chance at achieving all those numbers -- he was at for Boston this season. He won the American League batting title by hitting .349 in 2002. His overall numbers in Boston? A .312 average, 275 homers and 868 RBIs.
When the Red Sox snapped their 86-year old championship drought in 2004, Ramirez was the World Series MVP in the sweep over the Cardinals.
Only in 2007, when Ramirez hit .296 with 20 homers and 88 RBIs in 133 games, did he produce anything less than elite numbers. But Ramirez turned it on in October, hitting .348 with four homers and 16 RBIs in Boston's 16-game championship run.
It became clear that Ramirez was feeling good about himself when, after belting a walk-off home run in Game 2 of the Division Series against the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez, he broke his near season-long silence with the media.
During a comical, late-night press conference, Ramirez announced, "I'm a bad man."
For the most part during his years in Boston, Ramirez tuned out the media. But when he did talk, he almost always said something comical.
In the 2007 American League Championship Series vs. the Indians, the Red Sox found themselves in a 3-1 hole in the best-of-seven series. Normally, the off-day workout between Games 4 and 5 could have been an uptight occasion.
However, Ramirez brought some levity, deflecting attention from some of his more stressed teammates by holding court with the thirsty media.
"We're confident every day," said Ramirez. "It doesn't matter how things go for you. We're not going to give up. 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. It's not like the end of the world or something. Why should we panic?"
Perhaps taking Ramirez's cue, the Red Sox ran the table in their next seven games, capping it with a four-game sweep of the Rockies in the World Series.
There were Manny moments right from the start. In 2001, Ramirez's first Spring Training with the Sox, then-manager Jimy Williams moved him to left field, though he had played right throughout his years in Cleveland. Ramirez walked out of camp for a couple of days to come to peace with the move.
By the time the season started, he was locked in. Taking his first at-bat in the home opener that season, Ramirez belted a three-run homer on the very first pitch he saw. Bat in hand, Ramirez was a machine.
But other times, he just drove people batty, be it the four managers he played for in Boston (Williams, Joe Kerrigan, Grady Little and Terry Francona), management and, occasionally, teammates.
There was the time in 2003, when Ramirez, citing a throat illness called faryngitis that teammate Pedro Martinez had a couple of weeks earlier, called in sick for a critical late August showdown against the Yankees.
The Red Sox started to get suspicious when Ramirez blew off a doctor's appointment at Fenway Park before one of those games. The night before, he was seen socializing at a hotel lobby bar with Enrique Wilson, a Yankees player.
After losing two out of three in that series, the Red Sox traveled to Philadelphia for a Labor Day makeup game against the Phillies. Little asked Ramirez to pinch-hit in the latter stages of that game. Ramirez turned him down, saying he felt weak.
Little, with the blessing of the front office, benched Ramirez the next night in Chicago.
Incidents like that raised suspicion nearly every time Ramirez said he was injured.
That came to a head just last week, when Ramirez said he couldn't play in the finale of a three-game series in Seattle and then the opener of a showdown with the Yankees because of right knee soreness.
The Red Sox sent Ramirez out for an MRI on both knees, which came back negative. Amid reported speculation that the club would take disciplinary action if he wasn't available the next day, Ramirez returned to the lineup, ultimately playing five more games in a Boston uniform.
Francona referred to such instances with Ramirez as "bumps in the road".
Ultimately, Ramirez and the Red Sox decided it was best to part ways. For as Ramirez said on Sunday in what would end up his last session with the Boston media, "Enough is enough."
In some ways, it is fitting that Ramirez's next stop is Hollywood, where he will surely not disappoint from a theatrical standpoint.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.