Former New York Times reporter (and current Boston University media relations officer) Sara Rimer knocks it out of the park in this Times piece about the Washington Heights origins of baseball riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma Manny Ramirez.
Hero. Cheat. Prodigy. Ingrate. Free spirit. Knucklehead. Hall of Famer. Pariah. Enigma. Manny Ramirez, one of the great right-handed hitters of his generation, who retired from baseball this month after once again testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, was many things to many people — fans and family and teammates from Santo Domingo to Washington Heights to Cleveland to Boston. Sara Rimer, then a reporter for The New York Times, met Ramirez in 1991 at George Washington High School in Manhattan. Over two decades, she enjoyed a memorable and mystifying acquaintanceship with Ramirez.
What follows is a fascinating – and frustrating – chronicle of Ramirez’s star-kissed past:
I don’t remember the first time I saw that quicksilver swing. What I remember is what it felt like to be there on that rock-hard artificial surface atop the hill next to the high school, among his euphoric teammates and fans shouting his name, merengue blasting from someone’s boom box in the concrete bleachers behind the third-base line, the major league scouts lined up behind home plate as Manny came up to bat in his baggy black-and-orange secondhand uniform and red cleats and slammed one home run after another, day after day.
– and star-crossed present:
That was the Manny who at least seemed knowable, before he disappeared behind the wall of all that surreal major league fame and money. Who is the real Manny? The 18-year-old prospect with everything ahead of him, or the 38-year-old major leaguer who walked away from baseball rather than face a 100-game suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs for the second time in recent years? Who knows?
Who knows, indeed. But the hardworking staff knows this: You really should read this piece.