During his seven-plus seasons with the Red Sox, Manny Ramirez was often perceived as a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in an extra baggy uniform.
But a new authorized biography that hits the shelves next month attempts to offer some insight regarding his background, his shy personality, and what makes the quirky slugger tick — as well as his version of the events that led to his tumultuous departure from the Red Sox.
Reporter Shawn Boburg (formerly of the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune) and UMass-Boston professor and clinical psychologist Dr. Jean Rhodes co-authored “Becoming Manny: Inside the Life of Baseball’s Most Enigmatic Slugger.”
(“Becoming Manny” out in bookstores in March)
The book offers Ramirez’s perspective of his now-infamous incident with Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick that set his departure from Boston in motion. Ramirez shoved the 64-year-old McCormick to the ground in the clubhouse in Houston after he was unable to fulfill the player’s late request for additional tickets.
“Jack disrespected Manny for many years and on many occasions,” Ramirez’s former agent Gene Mato tells the authors, according to a report this morning in the Boston Herald. Ramirez’s wife, Julianna, offered a similar account.
“Jack’s response was very rude,” she said. “And Jack had a history of insulting Manny in front of the other players.”
Julianna Ramirez said the incident opened the door for the Red Sox to trade Ramirez without fear of backlash from the fans. “They gave him up to the press instead of protecting one of their own players,” she is quoted as saying. Thus, Ramirez “was hard-pressed to give his best to a team he knew was eager to cast him aside,” according to the authors.
The book also suggests that not all of Ramirez’s teammates were eager to see him go. Here’s one excerpt from the prologue, as posted on publisher Simon and Schuster’s website:
“There is consistency in his teammates’ and coaches’ characterizations of him as a hardworking team player. He was, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “everybody’s little brother” in his early years and, recently, has been more of a role model and source of support to younger players than he’s generally credited for. “He was a mentor to me,” says Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo, three years his junior. “When I went through tough times, he knew that I had trouble sleeping so he would call me early in the morning, when he knew I’d be awake, and he’d say, ‘Look, don’t worry about it, man. You’re going to do good today.’ That meant a lot to me. There’s no one like Manny.”
“To be honest,” says Pedro Martinez, “I don’t have enough kind words to say about Manny. I think he’s misunderstood.”
The website for the book — becomingmanny.com, naturally — has posted transcripts of interviews with some of Ramirez’s teammates through the years. A few comments of note:
David Ortiz: What can I tell you about Manny? Me and Manny was good friends. He was like my brother here. We pull each other up. A lot. And, I’m not going to lie to you. I miss him. I was with him so much of the time, and I learned from here. Believe me, coming here and watching Manny, the way he works, he teach me a lesson. I came up through the Twins, and when I got here I thought, I’m gonna watch the superstars, see how they work and Manny was the one that I watched. He showed me how he worked and I started working with him and believe me, my whole career changed. it was a lot of work. I never worked like that before in my life. I got my — kicked. Manny is an animal. He works like you’re not gonna believe.
Trot Nixon, on whether the media’s perception of Ramirez is accurate: I don’t think so. I think a lot of the public’s image is misconstrued. The media really wanted to talk to him and they didn’t get anything so . . .
Mike Lowell: I have a theory on Manny. He has a mentality, and I don’t know exactly what it is. But I believe all pro players have some case of either ADD or OCD. You almost have to hyper-focused, right? I think he turns all his focus into the batting cage. So sometimes he’s not as focused defensively as he is in the batter’s box. He kind of lets it go and I think that’s what people like to see.
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Listen to one of the authors, Dr. Jean Rhodes, in an interview on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show.