The Orioles, like most opposing teams, were never all that happy to line up against Manny Ramirez. Whether it was at Camden Yards or Fenway Park, Ramirez always put up excellent numbers against Baltimore, on his way to becoming one of the most feared hitters of his generation.
But being Manny, Ramirez was always due for some entertaining, or downright head-scratching, moments as well. Arguably the most famous one came against the O’s on July 21, 2004, at Fenway, and it has lived in blooper highlight reels ever since. Now you can relive it as part of MLB.com’s slate of classic games streaming during the coronavirus pandemic.
Why did Ramirez, the Sox’s left fielder, leave his feet to cut off his own center fielder’s relay throw? The world may never know. But the replay lives on for anyone wanting to come up with their own theory, or to just enjoy. The next chance to see it is now, as the game is being shown on MLB.com and Orioles.com.
By now, the sequence is something out of classic baseball theatre: In the top of the seventh inning of an eventual 10-5 Orioles win, David Newhan launches a Pedro Martinez breaking ball off Fenway’s center-field wall. Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon leaps, but the ball evades him, allowing Larry Bigbie to score from third. A useful role player in the midst of a career year, Newhan hits another gear when the ball bounces away from Damon, smelling three bases. The notoriously weak-armed Damon corrals it and uncorks a throw toward would-be cutoff man Bill Mueller.
It never makes it.
Leaping into the frame comes Ramirez, who leaves his feet to intercept Damon’s throw, then overthrows Mueller and short-hops the second cutoff man, for reasons still unknown.
The gaffe allowed Newhan to round the bases for an inside-the-park home run.
“That’s one of the strangest relays I think you’ll ever see,” Sox television analyst Jerry Remy quipped at the time.
“Manny jumps and makes a highlight catch,” Damon told the Boston Globe later. “Unfortunately, it was an embarrassing one for me and him.”
For the Orioles, it was a boon. The play stretched their 6-4 lead to an 8-4 advantage, leading to the third win in what would eventually be a four-game streak. The O’s also used a five-RBI night from Miguel Tejada to beat Martinez for the second time in four tries that season. Ramirez finished 0-for-4 with two strikeouts … and one defensive “play” that he’d never live down.
For the enigmatic slugger, it remains one of the most classic “Manny Being Manny” moments of all time.