Ex-Red Sox Slugger Manny Ramirez Returns to Fenway to Join Celebration
BOSTON -- Manny Ramirez was happy to finally be back.
The former superstar left fielder for the Boston Red Sox was at Fenway Park in his familiar No. 24 jersey as part of the pregame festivities for Boston’s 2019 home opener on Tuesday. Members of past Red Sox championship teams were there to help honor the 2018 World Series championship club, including Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz and Curt Schilling. Last year’s champs received their rings and raised a banner, while four World Series trophies (2004, 2007, 2013, 2018) were in the ballpark.
“Oh man, it’s awesome,” Ramirez said to a large media scrum in the press box during the fourth inning. “Every time I went into left field, all the fans were cheering and cheering my name. It’s a great feeling, especially when you come back and see (Red Sox manager) Alex (Cora) and you see David and you see Pedro.
“When you see the rest of the guys and think about what we did. We did it in ’04, ’07, and now these guys are doing it. It’s awesome.”
The 46-year-old Ramirez made eight straight All-Star games for the Red Sox from 2001-08. He won the American League batting crown (.349) in 2002 and led the league in home runs (43) in 2004. He was also the World Series MVP in 2004. However, his relationship with the franchise grew contentious and he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the summer of 2008.
Ramirez said he had been invited back to Fenway Park in previous years for celebrations, but opted not to attend.
“I’ve been so busy with family, so this time I wanted to come and say hi to the fans, and I’m here,” Ramirez said. “When I came to Boston, you know, to be honest, I knew it was going to be tough. But it also made me a better player, just to be always on top of my game and always give all I’ve got. I know sometimes a lot of people saw that I was maybe not working that hard, but I was working hard, I was doing my thing, I was putting my numbers in. And, like I said, this is an awesome place to play. It was God’s purpose for me to be here and play here.
“Right now, I got a family, I got three kids, I got a wife, and that’s the most important thing in my life. That’s what I enjoy right now. ... I thought playing against the Yankees was going to be tough, but, you know, raising boys is something different.”
Ramirez said he marvels at the ability of Red Sox sluggers Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez to hit the ball to all fields. He said they remind him of himself, back when he was wreaking havoc on opposing pitchers.
Ramirez finished his 19-year career with 555 home runs, a .312 batting average and two World Series titles, and he was one of the most feared right-handed hitters of his era. Those credentials would typically result in a first-ballot spot in the Hall of Fame.
However, he was also hit with multiple suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use. He got nailed with a 50-game suspension in 2009 and a 100-game ban in 2011, his final year in the majors. Thus far, Cooperstown hasn’t come calling. He earned just 22.8 percent of the vote this year, his third year on the ballot, putting him well short of the needed 75 percent.
“I think, in life, everybody makes mistakes, nobody’s perfect,” Ramirez said. “I think, in time, if it’s God’s will, we’re going to be there. If not, hey, we just have to know that we got the opportunity to play the game that we loved.”
Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone.