Manny Ramirez clubbed 274 regular-season home runs during his tenure in Boston, and 11 more in the playoffs. He was never flustered in a big moment, yet for much of his Red Sox career, he lacked that one signature home run.
Until Oct. 5, 2007.
The Sox were hosting the Angels in Game 2 of the American League Division Series. After winning the first game 4-0 at Fenway Park, the Sox were looking to grab a stranglehold on the series with a win in Game 2.
After falling behind 3-2 in the second, the Sox tied the game in the fifth, and the score remained 3-3 until the ninth.
In stepped Francisco Rodriguez, who converted 40 saves for the Angels that season as one of the best closers in the game. With a runner on second, Rodriguez got Kevin Youkilis to strike out swinging for the second out of the inning. Then, Angels manager Mike Scioscia was faced with a decision: Pitch to David Ortiz in the ninth inning of a tied playoff game, or pitch to Ramirez, who was 0-for-2 with two walks and a strikeout.
Scioscia elected to avoid pitching to the postseason hero, thus opening the door for Ramirez to become one himself.
With Julio Lugo on second base with above-average speed, a hard hit ball to a gap or down the line would probably win the game for the Red Sox. Ramirez, however, was seeking a much more definitive solution.
Ahead 1-0, Ramirez sent a Rodriguez fastball towering over the Green Monster, over Lansdowne Street, over everything. It was an absolute bomb, a no-doubt-about-it shot that sent Fenway into a frenzy. For a few moments, Manny didn’t move, but for raising his hands above his head and looking into the Red Sox dugout.
Eventually, as Rodriguez and the rest of the Angels trudged off the field, Ramirez made his way around the bases before celebrating at home plate. The game was over, but Ramirez’s performance was far from finished. Though he rarely spoke to the media, Ramirez took the podium in the Fenway press room after the game, wearing a full suit and looking just a bit uncomfortable. That didn’t stop him from saying what was on his mind.
“He’s one of the greatest closers in the game and I’m one of the best hitters in the game,” he said nonchalantly.
He was just warming up.
“I haven’t been right all year round, but umm … I guess, you know, when you don’t feel good and you still get hits, that’s when you know you are a bad man.”
After taking a few more questions, Ramirez thought it necessary to reiterate his point.
“Like I said, even when I’m not right, I get hits,” he said. “So I just gotta battle and keep preparing the way I’m preparing, because I never go down. … When you don’t feel good and you get hits, like I said, you are a bad man.”
By the end of the night, Ramirez had provided the Red Sox with a huge win, and they’d go on to win the World Series. He also made it abundantly clear that regardless of who was pitching and regardless of the pressure of a certain situation, he was a bad man.
Each day leading up to Manny’s return to Boston on June 18,
NESN.com will run through one highlight and one lowlight from his career
with the Red Sox.