Sunday, 10 April 2011

Manny Ramirez

Like Walt Whitman, Manny Ramirez contains multitudes. He hits like Lou Gehrig, runs the bases like Mr. Magoo, and plays the outfield like Charlie Brown. His manner is bashful; his coif, fluorescent; his annual income, upwards of $20 million. The media often malign him, but his teammates, coaches, and fans? They adore him. Ramirez is one of the most gifted kooks ever to play baseball—the latest in a line that descends from Dizzy to Yogi to the Bird—and perhaps the most enigmatic.

Rumors abound: Manny has five driver's licenses. Manny once got a ticket for having tinted windows, made an illegal U-turn moments later, and got a ticket for that too. Manny plucks his eyebrows and wears rouge. Vexing questions surround him: Why does he prefer his teammates' clothes to his own? Did he really have drinks at the Ritz-Carlton with New York Yankee Enrique Wilson in the thick of a pennant race—when he was supposed to be sick at home? Is it true he has tens of thousands of dollars in cash in his glove compartment?

In conversations with teammates, coaches, writers, and fans—and in a rare interview with Manny himself—GQ set out to discover the real Manny Ramirez, a man who loves hitting so much, he sometimes forgets to run.

Manny Ramirez: I started playing baseball at the age of 7 or 8. One of my coaches, his name was Rojas, said I was not a good hitter. It's true. He wanted to make me a pitcher.

Steve Mandl (Manny's baseball coach, George Washington High School, New York City, 1989–91): Manny'd hit three home runs and a pop-up, and when you asked him how he did, he'd say, "I hit a pop-up."

Adrian Oviedo (Manny's teammate, Alexis Ferreiras Little League, 1985–86, and George Washington High School, 1990–91): I remember one time in Pee Wee League, we had this kid named Bo. And he had, like, size 14 feet. One day Manny didn't bring his cleats to a game. He gotta borrow this guy's cleats. They looked like small boats. And he went out and hit three home runs in 'em.

Mandl: He didn't know whether he was on the bowling team or the volleyball team or the baseball team. All he knew was, he was getting in the batter's box and swinging the bat.

Joe DeLucca (retired scout, Cleveland Indians): The day he signed [with the Indians], I almost jumped off the floor about three feet. I remember showing Manny exactly what he had to do. I printed his name out, and I says, "You gotta sign it exactly like this. On this line." And doggone if he didn't sign it where his mother had to sign it. So you can't erase it. You can't do any cross-outs. So I gotta go type a whole new one out. I still have the original contract.

Dave Chisum (Manny's teammate, Appalachian League Burlington Indians, 1991): He was a first-round draft pick, and I think he got a quarter of a million dollars. He bought a white Nissan 300 ZX, and he didn't even know how to drive stick. I said, "Take me for a ride." He says, "I don't know how to drive it." I said, "Manny, why the hell did you buy it?" He goes, "'Cause I like it." I said, "Manny, you know they make these in automatic, right?" He goes, "Yeah, but I've heard they go faster in stick."

Ramirez: My mother was a seamstress, and my father was a livery-cab driver. After I got drafted and got my bonus, I said to my mother, "You're not going to work anymore, Mom."

Chisum: He was real lackadaisical. He wouldn't run balls out; he wouldn't chase fly balls that some people would dive at. He didn't want to do the extra work. I'd say, "Manny, come on, man." He'd say, "It doesn't really matter. I'm gonna play anyway."

Oscar Resendez (teammate, Burlington Indians, 1991): Like they say, if you hit, you don't sit.

"Video" Joe Catalioti (retired video coordinator, Cleveland Indians): When he'd get to the ballpark, he'd go to his locker and actually get undressed, and then he'd come into the video room stripped down to nothing and want to hug everybody hello. We avoided him as much as we could.

Wayne Kirby (teammate, Cleveland Indians, 1993–96): He went in everybody's locker. That's one thing about him. For some reason, that kid didn't like to wear none of his stuff.

Brian Graham (Manny's manager, Canton-Akron Indians, AA, 1992): He would come into the clubhouse, take his street clothes off. He'd go to one person's locker, put their long underwear on. Go to another person's locker; if they had a T-shirt he liked, he'd put that on. He'd just pick socks out of someone's locker, put those on. He'd use your belt if your belt was close by. He'd put your hat on. If he liked your shirt or your shoes, he would wear them home that night.

Jeff Whitaker (teammate, Burlington Indians, 1991): When you see Manny, tell him that he still owes me a Nike warm-up suit.

Mike Hargrove (Manny's manager, Cleveland Indians, 1993–99): The only constant that Manny had was he always went and got José Mesa's chartreuse long johns every day.

Jeff Manto (teammate, Cleveland Indians, 1997–98): You'd sit on deck, or you'd check in the bat rack, and you can't find your bat. You ask the batboy, "Hey, where's my bat? What'd you do with my bat?" And then he points to the batter, and it's Manny, using your bat.

No comments:

Post a Comment