All these years later, Manny Ramirez wants you to know that he loves you and that he is sorry for mistakes he made while playing in Boston.
He is sorry he knocked down Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick over a ticket issue when the Sox were in Houston in 2008. He is sorry for the way he shot his way out of town and got himself traded to the Dodgers later that season. He is sorry he got popped for PEDs three times.
“It’s a mistake,’’ Manny said of his failed drug tests. “It’s like Barry [Bonds], Alex [Rodriguez], and everybody that was in that [Mitchell] Report. We made mistakes. I cannot go back and change it. I think it’s going to be good for young players to see what happened in that time. But when you’re good, you’re good. Those things don’t make you a better hitter.’’
Manny is scheduled to be honored by the Sports Museum at its annual Tradition event Wednesday at the Garden. It promises to be a cathartic night for Ramirez and Boston fans.
Manny signed an eight-year, $160 million contract with the Red Sox before the 2001 season and made good on 7½ seasons of the deal. He was a latter-day Jimmie Foxx, good for about .312, 40 homers, and 120 RBIs every year. He was MVP of the World Series when the Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino in 2004. Paired with David Ortiz, he gave the Sox a Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig combo.
But he also was goofy. Fans loved it most of the time, but “Manny being Manny” sometimes triggered headaches for teammates, managers, and owners.
Pushing McCormick to the floor in 2008 was one of the last straws. McCormick, a former Boston police officer, was 64 at the time. Manny was 36.
“It’s been such a long time,’’ Ramirez said. “I think maybe he said something and I reacted in a different way. When I went back to Boston, I really apologized.
“It doesn’t matter what people say to you, you’re not supposed to react like that. That’s somebody older than you that could be your dad, and when I went back and apologized, it showed a lot. It showed that you are growing up, when you go back and apologize and recognize that you did wrong.’’
It was one in a series of misdeeds (remember when he took three strikes down the middle because he didn’t want to pinch hit against the Yankees?) that led the Sox to trade him to the Dodgers at the deadline in ’08. In 53 games with the Dodgers that season, Ramirez hit .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs. The Sox, meanwhile, lost Game 7 of the ALCS to the Rays. Boston fans were not happy.
I asked Manny if he intentionally misbehaved to get himself traded.
“I did,’’ he admitted. “But the more I tried, the better I played. My mind was so strong. I don’t know. I think I learned all that from my mom. She is so mellow. You can do anything to her and she is cool.
“To be honest, I was not in a good place at that time. I wanted a change. I thought going someplace else was going to make a difference. But now, man, I know it wasn’t the place. It was me. It was my mind. It was my heart. I wasn’t thinking right.’’
This is the first time Manny has acknowledged any of this stuff. Now 47, he says he has found God and is dedicating his life to preaching and helping others. He last played major league baseball in 2011, but kicked around with international teams and finished his baseball career as a hitting instructor with the 2016 Chicago Cubs.
Today he lives in Miami and has raised three boys — one college graduate and two teenagers. It is a comfortable life. Ramirez made more than $200 million in his 18 big league seasons.
Describing himself as a reformed Baptist, Ramirez said, “What I’m doing now, I preach. That’s what I do. Go into hospitals just to preach and teach people the Bible.
“I went back to school because I wanted to be in a seminary just to learn. I’ve been doing that for five years now. It hasn’t been easy. It’s something that’s great. It’s changed my mind-set. I’m like a rookie. I’m just on the bench. Sometimes they give me 10 minutes or 15 minutes. And that’s it.
“I’m growing. It takes time. It’s like playing baseball. If you want to be the best, you got to hit it every day. If you want to get to know God, you have to have a relationship with him.
“I remember when I retired, to be honest I didn’t know what to do with my time. And that’s hard. That’s something very hard. We are so young and we got so much power and so much fame.
“You think you can do whatever you want, but there are consequences. You get knocked down and you say, ‘What’s going on here?’ But then I started going to church.
“Everything that happened for me has been a blessing. You know why? Because I learn. With all the power and all the fame, if you don’t learn, you’re going to keep falling, worse and worse. And being in the wrong places at the wrong time. Thinking you can do whatever you want.
“But when God calls, you should humble yourself and you can see. Like, I hit all those home runs and it doesn’t mean anything. It’s something that I really can’t explain.’’
How does he look back on his Red Sox experience?
“To be honest, I think Boston was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “I played in Cleveland. Cleveland was kind of mellow. Smaller than Boston. But when I went to Boston, it made me be better.
“In Boston, you’ve got to be on top of your game every day. It was something that I have, and only the good players have it. I knew how to turn the page. If I had a bad day, I knew tomorrow would be another day and I would do better.’’
He loves Boston fans.
“Man, they’re the best fans ever,” he said. “I remember when we used to go and play in Toronto, Pittsburgh. They always were there for us, supporting us day and night. And that’s special. Everywhere you go. And they really had fun with me.”
Ramirez will be honored Wednesday (he will be presented by Manny Delcarmen) along with Patriot Matt Light, Celtic Paul Silas, and Bruin Zdeno Chara. None of them produced controversy on a par with Manny, and museum officials are aware that not all Boston fans are happy to see Ramirez honored after the way things ended here.
Rusty Sullivan, executive director of the Sports Museum, said: “Manny is still a popular guy in these parts. He really symbolizes an era in Red Sox history more than anyone else — back when the Sox were appointment television.
“He had some great years here and he was at his best in the clutch. He’s got the postseason records to prove that. Certainly there were some down moments as well. You take the bitter with the sweet.
“He’s got some baggage. Roger Clemens and Robert Parish [past honorees] had baggage. If we only honored choirboys, we wouldn’t have an event. Are you going to be morally sanctimonious or realistic? People are excited about him coming here.’’
Manny is not embarrassed to express his regrets.
“I think, like, everybody makes mistake every day,’’ he said. “You fall and you get up again. Every time you fall, every time you make a wrong decision, you regret it because that brings consequences. To you, your team, your family, your kids.
“But for all the things that happened, it was for the good. God is making it for good for me to appreciate what I have. I appreciate my family and my kids. And that’s what matters.”
A 12-time All-Star and lifetime .312 hitter with 555 career homers, Ramirez hit a big league-record 29 postseason homers. But he has gotten no love from Hall of Fame voters because of his positive drug tests.
“I really want to be there,’’ he said. “I’m praying for that. Don’t get me wrong; if it’s God’s will, it’s going to happen. I think it’s going to happen with time. All I got to do is keep praying. When it happens, be thankful and move on.
“I’m going into another Hall of Fame. If you read the Bible, the Bible says that your name is going to be written in the Book of Life. So it’s going to be more impressive than this. Remember, when you die, you can’t take this with you.’’
For information on the Tradition or to get tickets, go to www.sportsmuseum.org/events/the-tradition. Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at email@example.com