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Making sense of Manny

By Mark Shanahan & Paysha Rhone
Globe Staff / March 10, 2009
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It's become fashionable in Boston to bash Manny Ramirez. His huge salary and occasional bizarre behavior are much better remembered than his Hall of Fame numbers and World Series MVP. But even his detractors would have to admit they never really understood the guy. Enter UMass-Boston professor Jean Rhodes.

A clinical psychologist, Rhodes is the coauthor with Shawn Boburg of "Becoming Manny," a new bio of the inscrutable slugger. (It lands in stores today.) We talked to Rhodes about the ballplayer Bostonians love to hate.

Q. Are you a baseball fan?
A. No, not really. I became a bit of a fan when my sons started to play.

Q. So why a book about Manny Ramirez?
A. I'm interested in mentoring and he has an interesting story. He's also a fascinating person. Compare him to Jason Bay, for instance. He's so much more interesting.

Q This is an authorized bio, meaning Manny cooperated. How'd you pitch him on the idea?
A. Through his mentor, Carlos "Macaco" Ferreira. I'm on the board of the National Mentoring Partnership, and I'd been hearing about this guy at Manny's games. Here I'd been writing about mentoring for 15 years yet reaching a very limited audience. I wanted people to read about the power of this relationship. I guess Manny became a means to an end.

Q. And Manny said yes?
A . He said yes and no and yes and no a million times over.

Q. Was he easy to talk to?
A . I didn't realize he was the Greta Garbo of baseball. Things would be on and then off. But his wife, Juliana, could not have been nicer.

Q. And you spoke to his family.
A. Yes, I worked on this book for four years. I've hosted members of his family at my house. The most in-depth conversations were with his sisters, Clara, Evelyn, and Rossy. I don't think the book could have been written by Shawn alone because I was really able to connect with the women in Manny's life.

Q. And what did you learn?
A. He's not as self-absorbed as people think. He's a great father who always wants to be with his sons.

Q. If you had to diagnose him, what would you say?
A. Well, he has an incredible ability to focus and get into a flow state, which transcends the known world. He's fundamentally a very shy person and experiences a high level of social anxiety. It's like the whole world is conspiring to take him out of his flow state. Also, there's a degree of narcissism. That can't be denied.

Q. Manny likes to talk about how miserable he was in Boston. What's that about?
A. For him, baseball's just a game. He doesn't care so much about winning and losing, and he's put off by Red Sox fanatics. He's not [Curt ] Schilling, who calls into radio shows and parses everything. Manny plays and then his mind goes blank.

Q. Talk about Manny haters. Do you think there's a degree of racism involved?
A. Probably. He prefers to be around Dominicans and speaking Spanish. He addresses reporters in the book, saying he would do the same thing they do if he was a reporter, but he just wants to play the game. Manny showed so little of himself while in Boston that people projected things onto him.

Q. You went on the radio recently, and you were attacked for writing anything that might put Manny in a favorable light.
A. Those guys were transferring the hatred they have for Manny onto me. This book is not an apology for Manny, but it's not as black and white as some people want it to be either.

Burns's funds run out
New Hampshire filmmaker Ken Burns will have to look elsewhere for money now that General Motors Corp. has cut him off, ending its 22-year support for Emmy Award-winning documentarian. In a statement, GM spokeswoman Kelly Cusinato called Burns "the gold standard of documentary filmmaking," but said the financial crisis rocking the auto industry has "forced GM to rein in such spending." (A precise figure for GM's support for Burns wasn't provided.) Burns has made several public television documentaries, including "The Civil War," "Jazz," and "Baseball." His last GM-backed project is "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," a six-part series airing this fall. Burns's spokesman Dave Donovan told the Detroit News that Burns is "incredibly grateful" for GM's support.

U2 show still a mystery
This cloak-and-dagger business can't last forever. Or can it? Reps for U2 are remaining mum about the band's much-discussed "secret show" here tomorrow night. The latest word is - wait for it - the Orpheum. But that's almost surely nonsense since Hall & Oates are booked there tomorrow. (Maybe Bono will back Daryl and John on "Sarah Smile.") As U2 tries to gin up interest in its latest CD, "No Line on the Horizon," the band is taking part in three carefully orchestrated PR stunts, beginning last night in LA with a live radio broadcast hosted by Garbage singer Shirley Manson and continuing tonight in Chicago, where Bono, the Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., and Adam Clayton will take over a Windy City radio station for an hour and serve as guest DJs. In Boston, there'd been speculation the band might perform at the Paradise, where they played their first Hub headlining gig way back when. Then, last week, folks in the know swore it was the 900-seat Somerville Theatre, where Bruce Springsteen and the Jonas Brothers have both played to crazed crowds in recent years. (Maybe, but the theater's ops director Ian Judge sounded like Sergeant Schultz yesterday: He knows nothing.) One fan who scored an invite from a local radio station says she's been told it's a 1,400-seat venue. Hmm. Wherever it is, the show will be broadcast on WBCN at 9 p.m. U2 also just confirmed something we reported weeks ago. The band's North American tour pulls into Gillette Stadium on Sept. 20. Tickets for that show will go on sale soon.

Bridget sighting
While Tom Brady is enjoying married life with bride Gisele Bundchen, his ex is staying busy in LA. Actress Bridget Moynahan was among several celebs who showed up at a weekend fund-raiser for a rape treatment center in Santa Monica. The event, hosted by fashion designer John Varvatos, was family-friendly, with craft tables and pottery painting, but Moynahan arrived without son John. (He must have been with Tom and Gi.) Others at the star-studded event included Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon, Angie Harmon, Alice Cooper, Melissa Joan Hart, Lisa Rinna, Joely Fisher, Justin Chambers, Jillian Barberie, Eric Dane, Perry Farrell, Shannen Doherty, and Lance Bass.

Regan released from hospital
Boston's foremost flack George Regan was released last night from MGH, where he'd been hospitalized since collapsing last Wednesday at the Seaport Hotel. Well-wishers included Pats poobah Robert Kraft, Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, Senator John Kerry, Congressman William Delahunt, and Hizzoner Tom Menino. No word what's ailing Regan, who's under orders to rest.

Kidding around
Celts Leon Powe, Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Brian Scalabrine, and Kendrick Perkins had some fun with the kids from Salem's Plummer School yesterday. The C's big men took part in a scavenger hunt at Modell's in Medford, the booty being Celtics "Ubuntu" T-shirts. ("Ubuntu," which the C's shout when they break the huddle, is a Bantu word meaning "a philosophy of life that promotes the greater good rather than individual success.") Sales of the new T's benefit the Shamrock Foundation. . . . Over the weekend, Ray Allen was at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, where his fellow panelists included Kraft Group president Jonathan Kraft, C's managing partner Steve Pagliuca and team president Rich Gotham, Bruins VP Dan Zimmer, Reebok VP Paul Litchfield, Harvard athletic director Bob Scalise, and Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey.

Names can be reached at names@globe.com or at 617-929-8253.

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