Professional baseball player
Born Manuel Aristides Ramirez, May 30, 1972, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; son of Aristides (a cab driver) and Onelcidad (a seamstress) Ramirez; married to Juliana Monterio (October, 2001); children: Manuel, Manny Jr.
Addresses: Contact —Boston Red Sox, 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA 02215-3496. Home —Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Drafted out of high school by the Cleveland Indians to play in the Appalachian League, 1991; promoted to Class-A Carolina League, 1992; played in Class-AA Eastern League and Class-AAA International League, 1993; made major league debut for the Indians, September, 1993; became a free agent, 2000; joined Boston Red Sox, 2001.
Awards: New York City Public Schools High School Player of the Year, 1991; named to American League All-Star team, 1995, 1998-2004; American League Hank Aaron Award, 1999, 2004; Major League Baseball World Series Most Valuable Player award, 2004.
Boston Red Sox leftfielder Manny Ramirez started the 2004 season as an outcast after the franchise spent the off-season trying to give him away. While Ramirez shone as an RBI machine, his eccentricities and fielding mishaps had become too much to bear.
Manuel Aristides Ramirez was born on May 30, 1972, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to Aristides and Onelcidad Ramirez. The family relocated to New York City in 1985 hoping to build a better life than their poverty-stricken island could provide. They settled in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan, a place filled with Dominican immigrants, though plagued by drugs and violence. Ramirez's father drove cabs while his mother found work as a seamstress.
When Ramirez started playing little league baseball he was often benched. A coach suggested he become a pitcher because his batting skills were so poor. Ramirez, however, was determined to master the game and follow in the footsteps of his hero, Jorge Bell, a Dominican-born American League MVP who played for the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1980s. To improve his game, Ramirez awoke at 4:30 a.m. to practice before school.
Ramirez's dedication paid off. By high school, he was the star third baseman and outfielder at George Washington High School. In 1991, his last year in school, Ramirez hit .643 and was named High School Player of the Year for all of New York City's public schools. Ramirez left high school a few credits shy of graduation, entered the 1991 draft and was picked by the Cleveland Indians in the first round. Ramirez's first season in the minors, playing in Burlington, North Carolina, proved tough. Ramirez grew so depressed and homesick that one night, after going hitless, he told his roommate he was leaving. This teammate persuaded Ramirez to tough it out and advised him to relax and try to have fun. Since then Ramirez has made a career of not taking himself too seriously, though this attitude sometimes frustrates teammates.
After the pep talk, he burned his way through the minor league divisions and in September of 1993 was called up to the majors. Ramirez went hitless his first game, then headed to play at Yankee Stadium in his hometown. Friends and family flocked to the game and Ramirez produced, smacking a double his first at-bat, followed by two homers. With his quicksilver swing, Ramirez showed enormous potential as a hitter and remained on the Indians' roster at the start of the next season.
Lacking focus and maturity, Ramirez earned a reputation as one of baseball's most oblivious players. At times, he left the batter's box for first base on the third ball instead of waiting for the fourth. Once, a batter smacked a ball under the bullpen bench and Ramirez refused to dig it out, handing the hitter an in-the-park homer. When the Indians made it to the 1995 World Series, Ramirez infuriated teammates when he got picked off first base, then pranced smiling to the dugout. Teammates found his personal habits odd, too. He dyed his hair orange and borrowed pants from other players. Despite his downfalls, Ramirez's slugging kept him in the lineup. During his seven full seasons with the Indians, Ramirez batted .319 and averaged 36 homers and 123 RBI a year. Four of those seasons, he made the All-Star team.
After becoming a free agent in 2000, Ramirez, who had proven himself a true slugging machine, set off a bidding war and signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2001. From the batter's box, Ramirez gave the Sox the help they needed. In 2002, Ramirez won the American League batting title with his .349 average. His immature antics, however, continued. In 2001, Ramirez skipped the All-Star workouts, claiming his grandmother had died, though he provided no details. In 2002, he showed up late for spring training, broke a finger during a foolish headfirst slide and was demoted to the minor leagues for rehab. While there he halted a game to search for a diamond earring he had lost. Ramirez rejoined the Red Sox and while his hitting was hot, his behavior enraged teammates. In one game, Ramirez hit a grounder and headed straight for the dugout instead of running it out.
Ramirez proved productive at times, but his strange behavior grated on teammates, fans, and coaches alike. In 2003 Ramirez caused an outrage when he refused to play in a game because of a sore throat. That night, he was spotted at the Boston Ritz-Carlton meeting a friend. Though he hit .325 in 2003—second in the American League—the Red Sox placed him on irrevocable waivers at the season's end. In other words, instead of trading him, the Red Sox were willing to give him away to anyone willing to take over the rest of his eight-year, $160 million contract.
During the off-season, Ramirez seemed to undergo a transformation. At the start of the 2004 season, he made himself more available to the media and showed fans a long-hidden friendly side. Ramirez grew out his hair and became more carefree, encouraging his teammates to do the same. Ramirez's play was startling as well and he went from "unwanted to unstoppable," according to Charles P. Pierce in Sports Illustrated. During regular-season play, Ramirez hit .308 and had 43 homers and 130 RBI. With help from Ramirez's bat, the Red Sox won the American League championship and faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
In Game One, Ramirez made an error in left field that cost his team a run, followed by a second one that nearly cost the game. Teammates, however, brushed his blunders aside. As Pedro Martinez remarked to the Boston Herald 's Howard Bryant, "That was just Manny being Manny. You know at some point during the game, however, that he's going to do something good to help you win."
That is exactly what Ramirez did. From the batter's box, Ramirez was relentless and his batting prowess helped the underdog Red Sox to a four-game sweep. In sum Ramirez hit .412 in the series, going 7-for-17 with four RBI to earn the World Series's Most Valuable Player award and help the Sox break a curse that gave them their first championship in 86 years.
Vascellaro, Charlie, Latinos in Baseball: Manny Ramirez, Mitchell Lane Publishers, Inc., 2000.
Boston Herald, October 30, 2004, Sports, p. 148.
New York Times, June 18, 1995, sec. 8, p. 7; September 23, 1997, p. C1.
Sports Illustrated, July 5, 2004, p. 56; November 10, 2004, p. 80.
"Manny Ramirez," Baseball-Reference.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com/r/ramirma02.shtml (May 9, 2005).