In a lot of peoples’ minds, this was the ultimate example of Manny Being Manny. For 14 years, this play has been synonymous with Manny’s head in the clouds, Oakleys-With-Built-In-Headphones, lackadaisical approach to playing the field. Which for a decade and a half, has been the incorrect way to look at this play.
I’d argue at no point in Manny’s career was he more aware of the situation around him. At no other point was he more correct in his actions in the field. Bill Belichick would give this play a standing ovation for his preparedness and recognition. Johnny Damon was known for many things: his speed, his hair, his wide open batting stance. He was very much not known for his arm strength. Much like the rest of the world, Manny knew this. So on this particular play, rather than playing with his pud in left field, he decided to get in on the action. Damon was in the deepest part of the field – the deepest part of *any* field. This had disaster written all over it from Jump Street. So Manny went to be a relay man. And honestly, a decent throw from Damon to Manny and David Newhan here is probably out at the dish.
While Manny’s dive is imprinted in the brains of millions, very few ask where that ball was even going in the first place. Watch the play again. Manny is directly in front of all the other relay men. That ball would still be slowly rolling towards the dugout today if Manny hadn’t put his cat-like reflexes on display to stop this errant throw. Manny was such an unselfish teammate that he’s carried this joke on his shoulders for 14 years without uttering as much as a peep about it. Had he not acted, Damon’s throw would’ve been mocked for an eternity. That’s the mark of a great locker room guy, his ability to fall on the sword and take on all criticism. Is Manny a hero? That’s not my call to make. He still has a laundry list of Manny Being Manny moments to his name, I just don’t think this one should be classified among them.