Manny gets party started at Fenway, collects Red Sox HOF plaque

June 21st, 2022

BOSTON -- The most spontaneous ceremonial first pitch of the season at Fenway Park was about to take place on Monday night, and the crowd responded with roars as a two-time World Series champion ran out to the mound. 

Manny Ramirez soaked in the applause, which only grew louder when his former partner in hitting heroics -- David Ortiz -- jogged out there to join him. 

Suddenly, Fenway felt like it was in a 2004 time machine.

The beauty of the moment -- which happened prior to the Red Sox beating the Tigers, 5-2 -- was that nobody knew it was coming.

Ramirez arrived without warning. Ortiz was in on the secret and had something to give him -- a Red Sox Hall of Fame plaque. 

On May 26, the Red Sox Hall of Fame had its latest induction ceremony at Fenway Park, and Ortiz, Rich Gedman and Dan Duquette all received their plaques that night.

Ramirez had a scheduling conflict. Call it the latest case of Manny being Manny. 

“He’s the only guy that misses his [Red Sox] Hall of Fame induction and comes and throws out the first pitch on a Monday,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who played with Ramirez for four seasons. “That’s why he is who he is.”

Perhaps Ramirez showing up three weeks late to get his plaque made it more special. 

“It was awesome,” said Ramirez. “I never thought that this thing was going to happen and to come into Boston and all the things that I went through [when I was here], and receiving it this way is unbelievable.” 

Though Ramirez was hardly perfect off the field during his time with the Red Sox, he was one of the team’s most productive and enigmatic players between the lines. 

He always managed to make life entertaining, be it going into the Green Monster during a pitching change, cutting off a throw by fellow outfielder Johnny Damon or high-fiving a fan in the middle of a play.

Next month, Ramirez will go to Cooperstown, N.Y., and cheer on Ortiz, a first-ballot inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

On the same ballot in which Ortiz was elected, Ramirez got just 28.9 percent of the votes, well short of the 75 percent needed for election. Ramirez will be on the ballot for another four years if he continues to receive a minimum of five percent of the votes each year.

Though Ramirez’s numbers are clearly Hall of Fame worthy -- a career slash line of .312/.411/.585 with 555 homers, 1,831 RBIs and countless heroics in October -- he was suspended multiple times in the latter years of his career for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. 

Interestingly, Ramirez said it won’t be bittersweet for him to see Ortiz ride into baseball immortality. 

“No, no, no, I don’t rethink that, because I know what I did,” said Ramirez. “It [helped] for my life to appreciate more -- my family and my kids. You know what I mean? I’d rather give [up] the Hall of Fame than give [up] my family and my kids. My family and my kids are going to give me more joy than being in the Hall of Fame.”

This summer, Ramirez’s son, Manny Jr., is playing for the Brockton Rox, a collegiate summer baseball team. Also on the team? Ortiz’s son, D’Angelo Ortiz; Pedro Martinez Jr.; Gary Sheffield’s son, Jaden Sheffield; and Keith Foulke’s son, Kade Foulke. 

Guess who one of their part-time batting-practice pitchers is?

“Every time I’m watching my kid and throwing BP to my kids, it makes me feel like when I hit a home run off Francisco Rodríguez,” Ramirez said. “That’s how I feel when I’m there working with D’Angelo, with Sheffield, with Pedro Martinez’s son. Hey, that’s priceless.

“You know, David did it right. I made some mistakes. But those mistakes are helping me [be] a better person and [be] in the great spot that I’m in right now.”

While Ramirez also had a great run in Cleveland -- his numbers there were nearly identical to what he did in Boston -- he looks back now at his years with the Red Sox as the time of his life. 

And, in hindsight, he probably wouldn’t have acted up so much that Theo Epstein had little choice but to deal him to the Dodgers at the 2008 Trade Deadline. Ramirez admitted Monday he wished his stay with the Red Sox was longer than eight seasons. 

“I wish,” Ramirez said. “But everything worked out.”

Ramirez learned Monday that he will always be welcomed back to Fenway.

“This made me feel like I’m back home. That this is my home,” Ramirez said. “Boston and those fans, they’re the best. It doesn't matter how bad you do, they always remember you, they always support you.”