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On This Date in Sports July 21, 2004: Manny Being Manny

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

It’s just Manny being Manny as Manny Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox intercepts a throw by Johnny Damon from Centerfield leading to an inside the park home run by David Newhan. This helps the Baltimore Orioles trip up the Red Sox 10-5 at Fenway Park. Manny who was at the height of his career was the leading home run hitter in the American League and often had mental lapses.

Manny Ramirez was born May 30, 1972, in the Dominican Republic. When he was 13 his family moved to New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, where he could see the lights from Yankee Stadium from his apartment building. A high school star in New York, Ramirez was drafted 13th overall by the Cleveland Indians in 1991. Just two years later, Manny made his debut, collecting his first hit and a home run at Yankee Stadium as a September callup.

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As the Indians began to turn things around after 35 years of frustration, Manny Ramirez played a big role, as he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1994. A year later he was an All-Star for the first time, batting .308 with 31 home runs and 107 RBI. With the Indians, Manny Ramirez had a great deal of success, including a 1999 season in which he hit .333 with 44 home runs and league-leading 165 RBI. A year later he hit .351 with 38 home runs and 122 RBI, as he became a free agent.

As a free agent, Manny Ramirez was able to land a seven-year deal with the Boston Red Sox worth $191 million. In Boston, Manny Ramirez remained one of the top sluggers in baseball, as the Red Sox became a perennial contender in the American League East. It was this that helped the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry to reach new heights as he won his first batting title in 2002 with a .349 average.

While Manny Ramirez excelled on the field his behavior was often a distraction as his quirky mannerism belied how hard he played and how hard he worked to improve. No play demonstrated this more than a Wednesday night at Fenway Park against the Orioles. That night was a rare poor start for Pedro Martinez.  David Newhan of the Orioles came to the plate with his team-leading 6-4 in the seventh inning. There were two outs with Larry Bigbie on third, when Newhan struck the ball to the deepest part of Fenway where Johnny Damon was unable to run the ball down. Damon quickly got the ball and looked to throw the ball to third when Manny Ramirez jumped the throw and fell to his knees. As Ramirez recovered, Newhan was able to circle the bases as the Orioles won the game 10-5.

The bizarre play by Manny Ramirez would be just a minor part of a season for the ages, as the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years, with Manny winning the World Series MVP.