The Rays are hoping he'll be that Manny Ramirez, providing the impact bat in the middle of their lineup and a positive influence in the clubhouse. But they also know that there's a good chance that over the next 7½ months he'll be something else — good, bad or, quite possibly, indifferent. And, at some point, he'll be Manny Being Manny. The phrase has become a catchall description for all the odd things Manny does, from the quirky to the confrontational, essentially an alternative list of his greatest hits. There have been so many stories about Manny Being Manny — 215,000 hits on Google, T-shirts and, of course, a website (mannybeingmanny.com) — that espn.com did a story on the origin of the phrase. First used, reportedly, by former Indians manager Mike Hargrove in 1995 when discussing how Ramirez, in his third big-league season, left his paycheck in a pair of boots in the visiting clubhouse. Now it's commonplace, as much a part of the Manny experience as his dreadlocked hair.
There's not enough time or space to tell all the stories, but here, compiled from published accounts, reporters and baseball officials, are some of the best:
Field of dreams
Running the bases can be quite a trip for Manny, such as the 1997 game when he was essentially thrown out "stealing" first — he had taken second on defensive indifference, mistakenly thought the pitch had been fouled off, and broke back for first, then got tagged out. Put Manny in the outfield, and it can get even crazier, as he frequently turned the job into a (mis-)adventure. Like the time he was playing right in the Astrodome (July 1997) and jogged over for a ball hit down the line that rolled to a stop under the bullpen bench. Sure that by rule it was a ground-rule double, Ramirez stood there pointing at the ball while his teammates, who knew better, screamed for him to retrieve it as the batter raced around for an inside-the-park home run. Like the time he was playing left in Baltimore (May 2008) and raced back to make an over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track, then without breaking stride reached up to high-five a Red Sox fan sitting in the front row, then turned to throw the ball in and doubled off a runner. And, maybe greatest of all, like the time he was playing left in Boston (July 2004) and, after then-and-again teammate Johnny Damon raced to play a ball off the centerfield wall and get it in, Manny raced over and CUT OFF the throw — diving catch and all, one of his best — as the runner scored. It was so memorable that Damon brought it up at their Rays introductory news conference. "Since Manny's going to be the DH," he said, "he can't be the cutoff man anymore."
The O.J. moment
People close to Manny rave about how smart, savvy and aware he is. And there are times he can turn downright philosophical, such as when asked for his definition of Manny Being Manny: "For me, it means just be yourself, just go and do what makes you happy." But there are also those moments, when he does or says something that leaves everyone shaking their heads and wondering just what it's like to live in Manny's world. And that's how he could walk into the clubhouse after a 1994 game, see his teammates huddled around the TV talking about the police pursuing O.J. in that white Bronco and then say, "Oh man, what did Chad do," thinking it was then-teammate Chad Ogea rather than fleeing football star O.J. Simpson.
Manny, obviously, has plenty of money, with career earnings of more than $200 million. But he doesn't, apparently, always keep track of it well. He left the check in the boots, and he sometimes didn't have cash to pay for a meal or had to have teammates cover his clubhouse tips. (He also once played without taking out a $15,000 diamond earring and lost it when sliding into third.) As a rookie, Ramirez and teammate Julian Tavarez actually asked the writers covering the Indians for a small loan — just $30,000 each so they could buy motorcycles. A few years later, he had one of the Cleveland clubhouse attendants take his car to get washed and told him there was money to pay for it in the glove box. Sure enough, when the kid looks there's an envelope with somewhere between $4,000 and $10,000.
Ramirez has collected a few tickets over the years — as well, legend goes, as driver's licenses. And he got stopped by police in Seattle for, of all things, jaywalking. But the most entertaining run-in had to be the 1997 day he got nabbed in downtown Cleveland for having his windows too dark and his music too loud. Not only didn't he have any of his five licenses with him. And not only did he supposedly respond to the officer's orders that he was giving him a ticket by saying, "I don't need any tickets, I can give you tickets." But after he got the citations, Manny pulled away and made an illegal U-turn — and got another ticket.
Cars and grills
Ramirez likes to buy and collect classic cars, and several times he has been generous enough to donate them to be auctioned off for charitable causes, most recently last July when his 1994 Porsche brought in $50K for the Dodgers' team charity and a home for girls. Less charitable — and more comedic — was the March 2007 listing on eBay — to sell a gas grill, complete with a photo of Manny standing next to it. Apparently, he was just trying to help a friend and broke what had been an extended silence with the media to share. "Hey, did you check out eBay this morning?" he said to mlb.com's Maureen Mullen. "I just got to sell the grill and that's it. I don't need this game. I don't have to play anymore — just sell the grill."
Not all fun and games
Manny was accused several times during his stint in Boston of quitting on his team, asking out of the lineup for questionable reasons, not trying during pinch-hit appearances and loafing on the bases. And he never quite seemed into being with the White Sox at the end of last season. With the Red Sox he got into a dugout scuffle with Kevin Youkilis during a June 2008 game vs. the Rays (though not everyone thought Manny was wrong). But the one incident that seemed universally recognized as Manny Being Wrong came later that season, when he was upset that Boston travel director Jack McCormick couldn't fill his ticket request and shoved down the then-64-year-old. (For what it's worth, Rays travel director Jeff Ziegler is a fit 46 and a former St. Petersburg police officer.)
Hide and pee
Several times during pauses in play with Boston, Manny would take his own break by going into the small room inside the Green Monster wall. He was seen one time getting a drink, another time making a call on a cell phone. But the most memorable had to be a July 2005 game when he, um, needed to use the facilities and barely got zipped up and back on the field for the next pitch.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.