BOSTON — Johnny Damon stood near one corner of the Fenway Park media room Wednesday, willingly answering questions about the Red Sox’s 2004 World Series run, his tenure in Boston and the famous hair/beard combo he sported as a member of the self-proclaimed “Idiots.”
Then, Manny Ramirez walked in, causing a tornado of reporters to nearly knock over the accommodating Damon.
“Manny, why don’t you go cut off another ball?” Damon jokingly yelled out.
The reference was to a play in 2004 when Ramirez, playing left field, dived to cut off a relay throw toward the infield from Damon. It was a strange play, and it’s one several players from the ’04 team pointed to on Wednesday as being their favorite “Manny being Manny” moment.
“I remember being in the bullpen watching it and it’s like, (Whoa),” former Red Sox closer Keith Foulke said. “Someone goes to throw the ball, you kind of start looking again. And you’re like, ‘What? Did he just dive to cut that ball off?’ That was pretty funny.”
“Besides the thrills that he brought defensively, my favorite Manny moment was probably when he cut off Johnny Damon’s ball,” longtime Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek added.
Surely, there’s been a boatload of unforgettable “Manny being Manny” moments over the years. But none made players, fans and experts, alike, scratch their heads quite like the famous Damon cutoff. In fact, Damon still is trying to make sense of the play.
“I always thought it was going to be a one, maybe a two-hopper to third base with a chance of getting (the runner) out,” Damon said. “And I tried to relive the moment with Manny when we were (teammates) in Tampa (in 2011) and he didn’t want to do it. I feel like I’m the guy who got the worst out of it, not him. But we finally got Manny to dive for a ball, and unfortunately, it had to be on my soft throw.”
It took 10 years, but Damon finally got his revenge Wednesday by diving to cut off Ramirez’s ceremonial first pitch. Trying to explain the original Manny moment, however, might require another 10, although it remains near and dear to the hearts of those on the 2004 squad.