Why Manny Being Manny Has Dodger Fans So Happy
It is impossible to approach Dodger Stadium without driving through a set of hills. These hills serve as a preamble—an overture, as it were—to the joyous occasion that is seeing the Los Angeles Dodgers host another major league team.
After passing through the parking lot gates, you soon view the stadium structure and notice a low thrumming drumbeat. As you cross the threshold of the fan entrance and have your ticket scanned, the other instruments become audible and amplify once you are first able to see the lush green field.
Excitement becomes more palatable during the player introductions and the first crescendo rises as the players take the field. This has been my experience hundreds of times over the 40 years I have been a Dodger fan, seeing such stars as Don Sutton and Manny Mota, Steve Garvey and Ron Cey, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser, Kirk Gibson and Mike Piazza.
Now, we are delighted by the presence of Manny Ramirez in Dodger Blue. One of the greatest hitters ever in major league history sporting No. 99, which had never previously been worn in the long and illustrious Dodger history. The reaction to Manny in the lineup is unlike any I have seen before.
Garvey, Valenzuela, Piazza, and Eric Gagne are the players I’ve seen enjoy the greatest fan response. Of these, only Gagne, at the height of his “Game Over” 84 consecutive saves streak, came close to the adoration from the Los Angeles faithful. That was only on his entry and closing of the game.
With Ramirez, there are multiple at-bats, with the opportunity to show support before and after each. Manny is also feted for his fielding; while not at a Gold Glove level, it compares favorably to his immediate predecessors, Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones.
We have also lived through the defensive nightmares that were Pedro Guerrero, Steve Sax, and Jose Offerman (How do you spell “Offerman”? With two F’s and 40 E’s.) so Manny’s acknowledged shortcomings in left are only so bad.
When coming up to hit, Ramirez continues to be greeted as a rock star at the height of fame. The outs receive groans yet are accompanied by encouragement as he makes his way back to the dugout. Base hits are properly cheered, given the importance during the game. Home runs are joyous celebrations, knowing full well we have witnessed another chapter in an amazing history of one of the game's all-time best players to the benefit of our local heroes.
There have been many stories about Manny not playing hard, being a bad guy, etc. They are dismissed by Dodger supporters. The tremendous encouragement and leadership he has shown the younger Dodger players is obvious. His work ethic has been on display since his arrival.
Remember, Los Angeles is the home of the entertainment industry, which is rife with posers and wannabes, fakes and frauds. We are plagued by producers who make Al Davis look warm and cuddly. The landscape is littered with plastic TV talking heads, self-serving politicians, poisonous doctors, and terminally clueless commentators.
The Clippers and their odorous owner Donald Sterling have inflicted their presence upon this city for far too long. Georgia took her Rams home to St. Louis, assisted by NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, either not realizing or more likely not caring that the repudiation from the fanbase was directed at her instead of the team.
None of these labels apply to Manny. The Red Sox fanbase stopped appreciating what they had in him, triggering his desire to leave. The Los Angeles fan will always appreciate effort and desire, two elements former Dodger and current Red Sox J.D. Drew lacks in abundance.
Dodger fans are also educated to the point where they appreciate the fact Manny will not end his stellar career in Dodger Blue, given the realities of age, declining defensive ability, and the presence of the designated hitter in the American League.
All the wailing and moaning of Manny’s detractors serve to amuse the Dodger faithful, who see through all the smoke and appreciate the championship potential he brings to their team. The short time frame he will be in Los Angeles also makes his contributions keenly appreciated.
Each Dodger game with Manny on the roster will be an event, a cause for celebration. In Los Angeles, we know how to throw as well as enjoy a good party. It's one of our specialities; you should drop by sometime for one.
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