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Becoming Manny: Inside the Life of Baseball's Most Enigmatic Slugger

Becoming Manny: Inside the Life of Baseball's Most Enigmatic Slugger

4.6 3
by Jean Rhodes

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Authorized by the twelve-time all-Star and future Hall of famer himself, and written by the nation’s leading expert on youth mentoring and an award-winning investigative journalist, the incredible story behind one of the greatest baseball sluggers of all-time.

Manny Ramirez is a future Hall of Fame outfielder who has played in Los Angeles, Boston,


Authorized by the twelve-time all-Star and future Hall of famer himself, and written by the nation’s leading expert on youth mentoring and an award-winning investigative journalist, the incredible story behind one of the greatest baseball sluggers of all-time.

Manny Ramirez is a future Hall of Fame outfielder who has played in Los Angeles, Boston, and Cleveland. He ranks 17th in career homeruns and eighth in career slugging percentage—the only players above him on both lists are Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, and Barry Bonds. Manny is the hottest icon in baseball right now, and that will continue throughout the offseason, where speculation regarding his free agency will be the top baseball news on ESPN and throughout

sports media. In contrast to most sports biographies, Becoming Manny brings an unusually

thoughtful analysis to the territory, examining

Manny’s life through the lens of larger issues like youth-mentoring and immigration, while also telling the story of a great career. Manny has perplexed the baseball world for years now with his amazing hitting and his unique approach to life and the game. Incredibly focused at the plate and incredibly carefree everywhere else, Manny has become a constant topic of discussion on national sports radio and television, on sports websites, and in print. With unprecedented access, Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg have uncovered fascinating stories and family photos spanning from Manny’s early years in the Dominican Republic to the present. This is an authorized inside look at the roots, development, and career of an individual and player on his way from Washington Heights to the Hall of Fame.

Editorial Reviews

"SEE MANNY RUN AND HIT. AND LAUGH. AND LIGHT UP L.A." headlined an October 2008 Sports Illustrated cover. For hometown fans, watching and listening to free-spirited, 12-time All-Star Manny Ramirez has been one of baseball's greatest pleasures. "He's like a kid playing ball in the backyard," remarked one, "and he knows he's the best kid." Los Angeles Dodger hitting coach Don Mattingly, no slouch himself, calls Ramirez "the best right-handed hitter I've ever seen." This authorized biography tells the story about how the Dominican-born future Hall of Famer became Manny. An entertaining read about one of baseball's most colorful and talented players.

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Selfish Slugger?

Who is Manny Ramirez?

Reduce Manny to a series of stats, and it's easy to see who he is: one of the best batters in history. A twelve-time All- Star and nine-time Silver Slugger, Manny ranks seventeenth in career home runs and eighth in career slugging as of this writing. The only players above him on both lists are Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, and Barry Bonds. Manny is also second all-time in gram slams, behind only Lou Gehrig, and has hit more postseason home runs than anyone in the history of professional baseball. He still appears to have several years of baseball ahead of him.

But if you skip the stats, the question "Who is Manny?" gets confusing, controversial, and cultural. A favorite target of reporters and talk show pundits, Manny's every misstep is exhaustively analyzed and then reduced to "Manny being Manny." This oblique phrase has come to provide a shared wink of explanation for a player whose laser-beam focus at home plate seems irreconcilable with his periodic gaffes (or "Manny Moments") in left field and outside the ballpark.

The history of the phrase "Manny being Manny" in the popular press provides a series of thumbnail portraits of Manny at his most bizarre and intriguing, and a catalogue of the baseball world's struggles to understand him.

Its first mention in a major publication came in 1995, when Cleveland Indians' manager Mike Hargrove was asked about the young slugger's carefree-bordering-on-careless approach to money.

How do you explain Manny and Dominican teammate Julian Tavarez asking a Cleveland sportswriter to loan them $60,000, so they could buy a Harley-Davidsonmotorcycle? And what about forgetting a paycheck in a pair of boots he left behind in the Texas Rangers visiting clubhouse?

"That's just Manny being Manny," Hargrove told a Newsday reporter.

Several years later, a Cleveland sportswriter used the phrase to account for why Manny's old New York City neighborhood still adored him — because of how he showed up at his old high school cafeteria unannounced almost daily in the off-seasons to eat lunch with kids, and in spite of how he forgot promises to childhood friends to leave game tickets at the stadium box offices. But the phrase became less clearly defined after Manny moved to the Boston Red Sox in 2000, and its use grew with the city's fascination and ultimate disillusionment with their star slugger.

It has been invoked in print and online tens of thousands of times since 2000 as a shorthand explanation for Manny's mysterious injuries, his absences, his tardiness, his indiscriminate use of other players' bats and clothing, his silence in the clubhouse, his quiet acts of kindness to friends, his choice of an expletive-riddled song to play over Boston's Fenway Park sound system, his childlike playfulness, his midinning break inside Fenway's left-field wall, his failure to show up at the White House to meet President George W. Bush after the Red Sox won the world championship, and, yes, his towering home runs and unparalleled work ethic.

Manny is partly to blame for the mystery. He rarely grants interviews, and reporters who manage to breach his defenses are rewarded with little more than clichés or incendiary oneliners.

So, with little to go on but fielding miscues, baggy uniforms, flowing dreadlocks, big hits, and tired anecdotes, the public is left with caricatures of Manny as a carefree goofball and spoiled superstar.

Yet the question of who Manny really is endures, baffling his most ardent admirers and even some of his teammates. In fact, it was never more pressing than during the 2008 season, in the days before the Boston Red Sox traded Manny to the Los Angeles Dodgers, his third team in seventeen years as a professional. Manny's dispute with Red Sox ownership over his future — and questions about his commitment to the team — convinced many once-adoring fans that he was selfish.

The day after the trade, Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell told the Providence Journal, "For me, he's a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer, and when he gives his speech, he'll probably give it via satellite because he'll be in Brazil. That's him and that'll be perfect. He'll be wearing a Brazilian National Team hat when he does it."

Lowell's distinction between malice and oddity is insightful. On many levels, Manny and Boston were a mismatch from the start. Nothing excuses Manny's shoving of sixty-four-year-old traveling secretary Jack McCormick, and perhaps Manny didn't give the Red Sox his best in 2008. Still, there were reasons for his frustration. And one could argue that if Manny had behaved this way in 2004, the Red Sox front office, not yet emboldened by two championships in four seasons, would have found a way to weather the storm.

If Manny had finished his career in Boston — or simply departed under more amicable circumstances — the grandchildren of today's vociferous fans might have even driven through the Manny Ramirez tunnel. That may sound farfetched, but Manny's comments in advance of his exit are comparable to those of Red Sox legend Ted Williams, whose name graces the recently constructed highway that runs under Boston Harbor.

In fact, Williams was so embittered by his years of acrimony with the Boston press, Red Sox management, and fans that he refused to even tip his cap after his final hit. Manny's "enough is enough" comment, directed to the Red Sox management in the middle of the 2008 season when tensions were at their peak, was less acerbic than Williams's vituperations. As Leigh Montville described in Ted Williams:

[Williams] said he wanted to be traded. He said he hated Boston, hated the fans, hated the newspapers, hated the trees, hated the weather, hated, just hated. The word "fuck" or some derivative was woven into most sentences. He wanted out. And for most of Williams' tenure on the team, Boston hated him right back.

Manny's badmouthing was mild by comparison. Moreover, there is consistency in his teammates' and coaches' characterizations of him as a hardworking team player. He was, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "everybody's little brother" in his early years and, recently, has been more of a role model and source of support to younger players than he's generally credited for. "He was a mentor to me," says Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo, three years his junior. "When I went through tough times, he knew that I had trouble sleeping so he would call me early in the morning, when he knew I'd be awake, and he'd say, 'Look, don't worry about it, man. You're going to do good today.' That meant a lot to me. There's no one like Manny."

"To be honest," says Pedro Martinez, "I don't have enough kind words to say about Manny. I think he's misunderstood."

But Manny's teammates are not the only ones capable of shedding light on the vexing question of who Manny is. Conversations with Manny and his coaches, agents, mentors, parents, wife, sisters, and childhood friends, as well as side trips to his neighborhoods, show that he cannot be reduced to a caricature. They illuminate a nuanced, if inscrutable, man who defines himself by what he is least known as — a dedicated athlete, a wellregarded teammate, and a beloved father, husband, and son.

Among the mentors in Manny's life were his sandlot coach, Mel Zitter, and his then Triple-A manager, Charlie Manuel. But none have been more influential than his former Little League coach, Carlos Ferreira. In his neighborhood, Ferreira is endearingly known as "Macaco" — Spanish for little monkey. A thoughtful, charismatic man who left a medical career in the Dominican Republic to immigrate to the U.S. in 1979, Macaco, now fifty-nine, has coached several Little League teams in the baseball-crazed Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. He was — and he remains — a de facto father to many aspiring Dominican players.

The story of how Manny came to rely on this gentle, unassuming coach — from their first encounter in the basement of a Washington Heights housing project to their ongoing, daily conversations — is a window into Manny's development and his hidden essence: his vulnerabilities, his values, his uncomplicated worldview, and what it really means to be Manny.

But to understand the story of Manny and Macaco, we first need to understand another story: that of Manny's early life with his parents, Aristides and Onelcida, and his three sisters.

Copyright © 2009 by Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg

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Becoming Manny: Inside the Life of Baseball's Most Enigmatic Slugger 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brendan_Barry More than 1 year ago
The book “Becoming Manny”, by Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg, is an extremely interesting memoir that is a perfect fit for any baseball fan. In this great biography about the life of baseball icon, Manny Ramirez, the authors go into detail about every stage of his existence. From his birth, up until the book was written (2009). This book is an awesome one to read, whether you want to learn how the baseball superstar came to be who he is today, or even if you just want to learn a little about Hispanic heritage. From the time of his birth, Manny has always been much loved by his whole family. His parents, Onelcida and Aristides Ramirez, his three sisters, Rossy, Evelyn, and Clara, and he himself all were born, and spent a portion of their childhood in the Dominican Republic. This is where Manny started to play, and to love, baseball. Whether it was playing at the local field with his Dominican little league team, or stick ball in the streets with his neighborhood friends, Manny was constantly playing ball. In the story he states “I don’t remember much about those times (living in the Dominica Republic), but I do remember that my mom would get upset, because I never came home in time to eat at the table with the rest of the family. I was always at the field playing.” When Manny and his family immigrated to Washington Heights New York in Dec 1985, Manny was only 13 years old. Upon arriving, one of the first things Manny did was signup for the local little league team. The team was coached by a man who was nick-named “Macaco” or little monkey. This was Manny’s most influential mentor throughout his life. Manny and Macaco still remain very close friends to this day. In the book, Manny states, “There are three people in my life who I can really trust; Juliana [his wife], my mom, and Macaco.” Manny goes on to state “He’s like my father.” Although people think of Manny as being lazy, after reading this you will see that this is very untrue. Every coach that talked about Manny in this book mentioned his incredible work ethic. Most of them even go on to say that of all the players they had coached, Manny worked the hardest. One coach said that if Manny had a game at 5:00pm, he would be there at 10:00am taking batting practice. In the book Manny also states one of his workout routines. He would wake up at 4:30 in the morning, every morning, and run up one of the tallest and steepest hills in Washington Heights, dragging a giant tire behind him! This book also takes you through his years in the majors. Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the first round of the 1991 draft, he had a long and accomplished career of 19 years. Manny played most of his years as a member of The Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians; however he also played for The Los Angeles Dodgers. Manny was a twelve time All-Star and nine time Silver Slugger recipient. He also recorded stats like seventeenth in career homeruns, eighth in career slugging, second in career grand slams, and first in career postseason homeruns. I can honestly say that this was one of the best books that I have read. I would encourage any baseball fan to read this. When I started reading this book I was, by no means, a “Manny fanatic”, however after reading this book I felt as though I didn’t have a choice but to love him. The authors, Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg, take you so in depth to every detail his life, I feel like I’ve been close friends with him for years. If you’re looking for a great book to read, then pick up Becoming Manny.
TylermTM More than 1 year ago
This is a great biography by: Jean Rhodes, Shawn Boburg and Leigh Montville that helps unburry the life of Manny Ramirez. Also it's a great biography for someone with the love for baseball and, or the love for Manny Ramirez. It is a great biography about a famous Hispanic and on a tough man who battled through out his life to become what he dreamed on being ever since he was a little boy, a proffesional baseball player in the MLB. Through out the book it says what Manny would do as a child like he would come home late to diner from playing baseball and always watching baseball with his padre(father). It also talks about all the different baseball teams he played for from when he was five all the way to when he was playing proffesionally. Besides baseball it also talked about his family. Manny had a mother named Onelcida and his father was named Aristides. During the book there were events that Manny was involved in and his family was always there to support him in any way possible. While Manny was growing up though he lived in a dangerous neighborhood with his family. But this did not stop him from becoming a future Hall of Famer in Cooperstown, New York. I would recomend this book to anyone who has a love for baseball, Manny Ramirez, or just a great biography on a famous Hispanic. So go grab this book and begin a learning experience right away.
Francis71 More than 1 year ago
Becoming Manny by: Jean Rhodes, Shawn Boburg, and Leigh Montville explained the life of Manny from a small boy from the Dominican Republic to becoming arguably one of the best hitters to play in the game of baseball. Growing up on dirty streets known for drugs and violence, Manny kept him and his friends away from it and made sure he was focused on baseball. He stood out from his friends and started playing for good teams. When he grew older he reached the unthinkable and made it to the Major League Baseball Association. Manny began with the Cleveland Indians and had a very successful career. He started to slump and the Red Sox signed the extremely talented slugger. Manny was a key part to the Redsox organization and helped them win two World Series in four years. As his career continued in Boston, the fans and organization began to loose hope in him and many trade rumors had been in the news for years. Manny was finally traded from Boston and had moved to the Las Angeles Dodgers, it was time for all of Red Sox Nation to move on from their slugger and focus on what was to come. Manny may be getting older but is still known for some clutch plays, homerun hitting, and clumsy plays. Their is no real ending to this book because Ramirez is still wearing the Dodgers uniform. Manny is a perfect example to kids out there. He lived on dangerous streets but avoided the distractions and fulfilled his dream and became a future Hall of Famer in Americas Pastime. I recommend this book to baseball fans or people who just wants a good read about a boy from the Dominican, to becoming one of the most talked about athletes in America.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dan_C More than 1 year ago
The book Becoming Manny, written by Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg, published in the year 2009 by Scribner a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. is a well-written and a descriptive look into one of baseballs greatest all-time sluggers. This biography displays key facts and information that show how he got to where he is today. Throughout the book, it stresses the strength and hardships Manny had when growing up in Washington Heights, New York. Also, it shows how much spanish influence there was and the culture that had developed in Washington Heights at the time due to it was the second most Dominican populated area in the world at that point. When growing up Manny was a shy boy. He would scarcely talk to anyone, and his mother Onecileda talks about him as a boy who didn't do much and didn't talk much except for his love for baseball. This all changed the time he signed up for little league and met what he didn't know at the time but would find out later was his mentor, father figure and simply just his best friend. His name was Macaco and he was a father figure to many of the young fatherless members of the little league teams. Right away though he took a loving to Manny and gave him special treatment even though Mannny would not have his parents come meet with Macaco which was a rule enforced by Macaco, but he let it slide for Manny. Manny never knew Macaco would still watch and coach him until this very day. Manny was always a hard worker. he would wake up early on his sofa bed every morning in Washington Heights and run up and down the worst streets in New York with a tire tied to his back. Neighbors remember him as a "determined person." Even when he came up to select leagues after high school he would work hard but still make his old Manny being Manny mistakes as Red Sox fans know it as. But for that he had to run all day which he did not a word said to the coaches. Soon after he was drafted. His own family didn't even know he was drafted in fact they never even watched his games or know he had an exceptional skill for baseball. This is another demonstration of how shy Manny was and how little he talked about himself. His mothers first game she attended was when he was in the AAA and she remembers it fondly. This all worked out in the long run as today Manny Ramirez is still breaking records and slugging home runs. I recommend this book to anyone who likes baseball or a story of a strong-minded kid whom is successful in what he really wants to do.
Dante48 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. The best chapters detail his growing up in Washington Heights, the process of scouting him, Manny's rise through the minor leagues, and the final chapter, which ties everything together in a way that makes more sense of Manny than I've seen. Beyond the light it sheds on Manny and Dominicans in the majors, the book tells us about the Spanish culture, poverty, immigration, and the role of coaches.
Graham92 More than 1 year ago
This is a well-written and intelligent book about one of the most interesting and prolific living sports figures. It's packed with interesting details and gives a thoughtful analysis of who he really is. Highly recommended.