Before diving into the circumstances around Manny Ramirez‘s first hit as a Major Leaguer, we need to get on board with a single definition.
Perspective is defined as “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.” And in the case of how we view Manny Ramirez’s career, gaining perspective is important, but perception, defined as “intuitive understanding and insight,” might be more valuable.
Confused? That’s okay. It’s totally understandable. Let’s explore the difference through the lens of Manny Ramirez’s breakout performance, the second game of his long career.
Manny Ramirez, the top prospect in the Cleveland system and across the league, made his MLB debut on September 2nd, 1993, against the Minnesota Twins. The Dominican-born outfielder, who grew up playing baseball in New York City, went 0-for-4, hitting four flyballs as Cleveland lost 4-3. Not the best outcome for your MLB debut. Perhaps Manny had first-game jitters, or maybe no one told him he didn’t have to swing for the fences every at-bat.
The second game of this career, against the New York Yankees, is the one you’re probably familiar with. Why? It’s the first mention of the ideology that is “Manny Being Manny.” Or at least it is according to MLB, who titled their YouTube video as such.
In the top of the second, with Melido Perez on the mound for the Yankees, Manny Ramirez took a 2-0 pitch and drove it out to left field. It seems like Manny gets all of this pitch, and from the view point of a television viewer, that thing is GONE.
In reality, Manny’s long drive to left lands about 3 feet short of the wall, bounces into the stands and is called a ground-rule double. Manny, not looking at where the ball is landing, and is running the ball out, picks up his head as he turns towards second and sees the ball in the stands. At this point, he slows his trot around the bases, hits second and heads to third.
For a brief moment in time, Manny Ramirez has hit a home run for his first MLB hit.
As he touches second and heads onward, Manny catches his third base coach and his team in the visiting dugout. As he realizes what has happened, Manny stops a few feet ahead of third and trots back to second. It’s an innocent mistake – one that many players, before and since, have made.
From the dugout, the camera finds Carlos Baerga, who is teasing Manny with the stop sign. The camera moves back to Manny who is taking off his batting gloves, a look of slight embarrassment on this face.
And that’s it! That’s everything you need to know about that game!
Oh wait, there’s a footnote in this MLB.com article from 2015…
Oh, right. There’s more baseball to play and much more to this story.
The game between Cleveland and the Yankees on September 3rd, 1993, was played at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Eight years prior, in 1985, at the age of 13, Manny moved with his parents to Washington Heights. Their sixth-floor walk-up on 168th Street was a simple 20-minute train ride to the Yankees.
Manny did the majority of his ball playing in Highbridge Park, the same place where Yankee legend Lou Gehrig crafted his skills decades prior. Eventually, Manny and Gehrig would stand alone atop the all-time Grand Slam list, as #1 and #2.
Playing for George Washington High School in Washington Heights, alma mater of Hall of Famer Rod Carew, Manny was a star in the making. In his final year before being drafted 13th overall in 1991, Manny hit .650, and smashed 14 home runs in 22 games. That’s real. That’s not a joke.
Manny Ramirez was the pride of Washington Heights when he was drafted by Cleveland, and you can see that by who is in the crowd tonight. A large faction of friends, family, teammates, and neighbors all took the A/C to the D to get to Yankee Stadium for his return home.
Because that’s what this game is: a homecoming.
In his first MLB at-bat a stone’s throw away from where he grew up, Manny Ramirez did something he probably envisioned doing for year while playing on Snake Hill or at Highbridge Park. He hit not one, but two home runs.
Oh right, forgot to mention that. While we all know about Manny’s ground-rule mistake, what is usually forgotten about is that he went yard not once, but twice in that same game.
The first home run came on his third at-bat of the game, once again off Perez, and is an absolute no-doubter. This ball is absolutely demolished, so much so that the booth is astounded by its magnitude and majesty. Almost as if he wanted to leave no questions about his abilities, Manny parked another one, sending his “fan club” into hysterics.
Two years removed from hitting home runs for George Washington High School across the East River, Manny Ramirez was blasting them in Yankee Stadium. The kid who dreamed of playing in the majors, who referred to the Dodgers jersey his grandfather gave him as “his most prized possession”, had made it to the show and set off fireworks doing so.
Perception and perspective.
If you only know about the first at-bat of that game, it’s easy to laugh at Manny’s first hit being a bit of an odd moment. He’s an oddball, right? He’s “Manny Being Manny.” But if you zoom out, and shift that perspective, your perception of the moment changes.
Manny Ramirez took the field at Yankee Stadium, only 20 minutes from where he grew up, and owned the night. Once again playing on the same field as Lou Gehrig, and this time, Manny was competing on that same level. Not only that, he did it in front of his community.
Even though Manny grew up within earshot of the House that Ruth Built, he turned his eyes to the Toronto. Why? Because the Blue Jays had two of his heroes from the Dominican Republic: George Bell, and Tony Fernandez. Manny and his father would sit in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium, but only if the Blue Jays were in town.
And on September 3rd, 1993, Manny Ramirez became a Dominican hero for those sitting in the bleachers.
To say, as MLB’s YouTube Channel does, that this game is “the origin of Manny Being Manny” isn’t just wrong. It’s oblivious to the reality and weight of the moment. If anything, this game is the origin story of Manny Ramirez. The beginnings of a ballplayer who would stop at nothing to play the game his way. An athlete who would accept no substitutes.
It’s not about “Manny Being Manny” on September 3rd, 1993. It was about Manny being the hero of his moment and putting the league on notice.
And for the next seven seasons, Ramirez would terrorize the American League with Cleveland. But that’s next week’s chapter of…
The Book of Manny.
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