- The Washington Times
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Manny Ramirez was in the Dodgers‘ clubhouse early yesterday afternoon, and I wanted to make sure I was one of the first to welcome him to the District.

This was his first time here as a player, and though he had been to Baltimore many times with the Red Sox, I get the feeling that Manny is a homebody and doesn’t stray too far from the center of his universe.

I was going to offer some suggestions while he was in town. I figure that Manny is more of an Air and Space kind of guy than a Hirshhorn fan. But when I tried to ask Manny about coming to the nation’s capital, he said, “Washington? I don’t want to talk about it.”

OK, then let’s stick to baseball.

“Nah,” he said.

Manny didn’t want to answer any of my questions, but he did have one for me.

“How’s Wily Mo Pena doing?” he asked.

Not good, I told him - recovering from shoulder surgery.

I should have said, “Wily Mo Pena? I don’t want to talk about it.”

He didn’t even give me a chance to get to my best stuff - “Manny, would you consider signing here next year?” He might have gotten a good laugh out of that. Then again, he at least would be able to play with his former Boston teammate, Wily Mo.

But you get the feeling that even if Wily Mo was in the same clubhouse with Manny, he might ask you, “How’s Wily Mo Pena doing?”

The Dodgers weren’t doing too well when they limped into Nationals Park last night for a three-game series, having lost four straight and six of their last seven and falling three games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.

If you have no particular rooting interest in this race, then you have to pull for the Dodgers to win the division. They are a far more interesting postseason story than the Diamondbacks with Joe Torre in the dugout and the Manny show on the field and off. A Dodgers-Red Sox World Series would have enough story lines to sustain it for 14 games.

Manny had done his part since he arrived in a trade from the Red Sox four weeks ago. He is batting .361 with six home runs and 21 RBI since the trade, but has slumped recently, batting .208 in the six previous games before last night.

It’s clear that as Manny goes, so go the Dodgers.

Torre, who knew Manny as an All-Star and as a feared opponent all those years in the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, said while Manny is fun, he has been impressed with the work he puts into hitting.

“I had him as a Cleveland Indian and a Red Sox player in All-Star Games and found him to be a lot of fun,” Torre said. “But when you are sitting on the other side of the field trying to get him out, that wasn’t a lot of fun.

“Since he has come here, I am very impressed with his work ethic and what he does, the way he goes about work. He comes in here and uses the cage, uses things. He has a regular program that he goes through, and it is impressive.”

Yeah, yeah. Lots of guys work hard. But not many can do it and be a cartoon character at the same time - disappearing inside the Green Monster between innings, high-fiving a fan while running up the wall at Camden Yards after catching a fly ball.

The act may have worn thin in Boston after nearly eight seasons, but with the Dodgers, Manny is must-see TV.

Seeing him in Dodgers blue, it made me think that Manny would have a been a great Brooklyn player - particularly the Daffy Dodgers era. He would have fit in with Babe Herman, another great hitter known for his antics, such as stopping to watch a home run while running the bases and being passed by the hitter, changing the call to a single - twice in the same season. Herman was nicknamed “The Headless Horseman of Ebbets Field” by teammate Dazzy Vance.

Manny’s big bat and quirky style would have made him a beloved figure at Ebbets Field.

“People would have embraced him like they have in L.A,” said Torre, who grew up in Brooklyn, though he rooted for the New York Giants. “I am not sure the dreadlocks would have worked back then, but that colorful kind of player would have fit right in with the Dodger Symphony and Hilda Chester and Happy Felton’s Knothole Gang and all that stuff. He would have certainly been one of the colorful figures on that ball club.”

Yes, Manny is old school colorful.

I would have asked him about Brooklyn, but Manny probably would have answered, “Brooklyn? I don’t want to talk about it.”

Then he might have asked how Babe Herman was doing.

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