Manny Ramirez returns to Boston with Dodgers for first time since leaving Red Sox

By Jimmy Golen, AP
Friday, June 18, 2010

The ‘Manny Being Manny’ show returns to Boston

BOSTON — The dreadlocks are a little longer. The pants are a little baggier. The uniform number is a lot higher than when Manny Ramirez played for the Red Sox.

Returning to Fenway Park for the first time since he was traded to Los Angeles, the quirky slugger exchanged hugs with David Ortiz and other ex-teammates before the Dodgers played the Red Sox on Friday night. Ramirez was greeted with a mixed reaction from a sold-out crowd that included another former star who was both loved and hated in Boston, Roger Clemens.

“It was good to see my boy out there,” Ortiz said or Ramirez. “I had my little chitchat out there. Good to see him back.”

Ramirez declined to talk to reporters in clubhouse either before or after the game, though when it was time for a team meeting before batting practice he did playfully yelled for the media to leave. He was in the lineup at designated hitter — wearing his Dodgers No. 99 instead of his Boston No. 24; he made outs in his first two at-bats before singling and scoring in the sixth.

He came up with two on in the ninth but struck out looking to end the game, and Boston won 10-6.

“He didn’t seem edgy at all. He was out there, he was a teammate. He did all the things he’d normally do,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “He seemed pretty comfortable to me. He kidded about it a couple of times during the week but nothing that indicated to me that he wasn’t looking forward to it.”

Ramirez received a loud but mixed collection of cheers and boos when he was introduced, and again when he went to the on-deck circle in the first inning. When he came to bat to lead off the second, some booed and some chanted “Manny!”

But everyone stood.

“I know the fans here love to boo,” Torre, who spent 12 years with the archrival New York Yankees, said before the game. “I certainly hope they understand how much Manny meant to this club and they won two World Series with him.”

Ramirez hit a looping fly ball into center for an out on the first pitch he saw from rookie Felix Doubront. He lined out to right field in the third, and he led off the sixth with a single to center.

“Manny is certainly going to have a lot of emotions here,” Torre said. “This was a huge part of his career. You are never blase about coming to Boston and playing in front of these fans and involved in so many pennant races and not have it be a big part of your life.”

Clemens also left under unpleasant circumstances and then returned to face the ballclub in a much-anticipated reunion. On Friday, he walked through the press box flanked by security on his way to his seats atop the Green Monster, where he signed autographs between innings and during pitching changes.

“We have a lot of guys that played here before, like Manny, who did a lot of good things for the ballclub,” said Ortiz, who homered to tie Ramirez for fifth on Boston’s all-time list. “People remember that.

In the middle of the second inning, the Red Sox played a video on the scoreboard of Ramirez highlights. Set to the R.E.M. song “Superman,” it showed him making diving catches, receiving his Series MVP trophy, posing at the plate after hitting a home run and, of course, opening the door to the Green Monster for one of his mysterious visits there.

Ramirez batted .312 with 274 homers and 868 RBIs in 7½ seasons with the Red Sox. He was the first World Series MVP in Red Sox history, earning the honor in 2004 when Boston won the title for the first time since 1918; he was also a key part of the team that won it in ‘07.

But his antics were just as outsized as his statistics.

He high-fived a fan in Baltimore — after making a leaping catch, but before throwing the ball in to finish a double play. Against the Angels, he dived for a fly then rolled onto the ball that had fallen in front of him. By the time he retrieved it, Maicer Izturis had a triple. He cut off a throw — in shallow left — from center fielder Johnny Damon.

And every July brought another debate on whether to trade him. Sometimes it was at his request; other years the team was looking for someone who would take on his prodigious salary and personality.

Finally, a few days before the 2008 trading deadline, he told the team he couldn’t play because of a knee problem but couldn’t say which knee hurt. MRIs showed no damage. A few days later he was traded to the Dodgers in a six-player, three-team deal that brought Jason Bay to Boston.

“Everybody has idiosyncrasies. I have idiosyncrasies,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “That’s part of life. That’s part of dealing with people.

Colletti said the idea to pursue Ramirez was planted by former Red Sox infielder Bill Mueller, who was working in the Los Angeles front office. In addition to being one of the best hitters in the game, which was no secret, Miller said Ramirez was “a great teammate.”

“From my perspective, he’s been great since he got here,” Colletti said. “He’s above average most days and fine the other ones.”

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