August 4, 2010

Bill Plaschke, of the LA Times, was never a fan of Manny Ramirez. Never is from day one.

“Once the boisterous life of the party, it’s now the loneliest place in the yard.

The celebrated sign has been torn down. The bright swatch of seats is mostly bare. The mayor is
in exile in Arizona.

“It’s dead out here,” says Joe Bruno, 50, a season-ticket holder sitting alone in a long quiet
row. “Been dead all year.”

Mannywood is now Deadwood, the Dodgers ill-conceived tribute to Manny Ramirez serving as a
metaphor for the man himself. The two previously rollicking sections in the left-field corner at
Dodger Stadium now have the hollow look of a party gone bad.

”Manny had us going for a while,” said Oscar Chavez, 28, celebrating his birthday there
Tuesday night with eight easily obtained tickets for his family. ”But now he’s done.”

And the Dodgers, it seems, are finally done with him, having torn down the Mannywood signs
during the last trip, replacing them with billboards advertising an insurance company and the
Dodgers’ flagship radio station.

Dodgers officials say the space has been for sale all season, that the change of signs has
nothing to do with the end of Mannywood, which is still being sold as a destination spot on its

The few hardy folks who still show up there aren’t buying it.

“Nah, I heard that and I don’t believe it,” said Hernan Gutierrez, 21, who is dedicated enough
to drive down several times a year from Bakersfield. ”Manny just hasn’t been around very much,
so we expected the sign to come down.”

Ramirez has been around for barely half the Dodgers’ games this year, fighting off leg injuries
that steroids apparently can no longer heal, finishing his brief Dodgers career in silence and
pain. His latest bout with a calf injury has sent him to Arizona amid such uncertainty, when
Torre was asked when he expected to see him again, the manager shrugged.

”I have no idea,” Torre said.

Two summers ago, we all knew where Manny Ramirez was, because he was everywhere. Dumped on
Chavez Ravine’s doorstep by the weary Boston Red Sox, the troubled Ramirez arrived here in
August 2008, his baggy pants and funky dreadlocks hiding a serious mission.

He wanted to change his image long enough to cash in on a new contract. He wanted our affection
so we could give him our money.

Mission accomplished. He carried the team on the field, courted the media in the clubhouse, led
the Dodgers to within three wins of a World Series appearance, and here came the rain.

A two-year, $45-million contract, and the creation of that outrageous little corner known as

The Dodgers had no choice in giving Ramirez the contract, but they were misguided schemers in
creating his own section, furnishing him with an aura of power that separated him from his
younger teammates, refurbishing the Boston-built monster for the sake of a few extra bucks.

Funny, but the Lakers never felt a need for a Kobe Town.

Less than two months into his new contract, when Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for
violating baseball’s drug policy, the Dodgers had already invested so much in his star power,
they had to fraudulently support him, and it was the beginning of the end.

He was given special treatment, complete with body guards and chauffeurs, during his
minor-league ”rehabilitation” starts. He was then cheered on his return to the lineup by those
sitting in a Mannywood section that never closed.

He was never forced to answer the hard questions, face the uneasy truths, or make the difficult
changes necessary for former steroid users to maintain some semblance of their success. And so,
with a few exceptions like his brilliant bobblehead night grand slam, he miserably failed.

”His personality changed, he lost his swagger,” Torre said.

His downfall was typified by the ninth inning of the wrenching Game 4 National League
Championship Series loss to the Philadelphia Phillies last season, when Ramirez admitted he
missed the Phillies’ comeback because he was in shower.

Of course, nobody in the organization ripped him for it. Nobody ever ripped him for anything.
Remember, he was always just Manny being…. I’m so sick of this line, I can’t write it anymore.

Not surprisingly, this summer has been one giant pulled muscle, Ramirez discovering that he has
become just another 38-year-old hacker with a brittle step and warning-track power, so
embarrassed that he has refused to speak to the media he once embraced. If he comes back from
the disabled list with the Dodgers believing they still have a reasonable chance at a playoff
spot, they will keep him for the final month of his career here. If the Dodgers think they are
out of it, they will trade him.

”First of all, we really need him back,” General Manager Ned Colletti said. ”Then we’ll see
how things play out.”

But haven’t things already played out? Haven’t lessons already been learned?

Mannywood is gone, and let’s hope that in the future, no matter what size star shows up at
Chavez Ravine, nobody there makes him bigger than the team. Let’s hope that now the Dodgers will
be content just being the Dodgers.”

Here Norman Chad turns to being a debunker.

“Every once in a while, your grandfather will tell you about some fabulous feat that happened
before you were born, often to belittle whatever modern-day achievements some of us are
celebrating. Guess what? Often, they’re embellishing the facts or just making stuff up.
Frankly, there are a lot of things – some of them sports things – I do not believe. Here now,
Couch Slouch’s first installment of History That Did Not Happen:

•  Cy Young’s 511 wins: This is one of sport’s most unbreakable records, if it did happen.
A pitcher could average 20 wins a season for 25 years – and still be short of Cy Young’s mark!
Young made his big-league debut at age 23, pitching a three-hit shutout; he was Stephen
Strasburg before Strasburg, though, in all likelihood, less hyped. In his second full season in
1892, Young threw 453 innings – I guess he wasn’t on a pitch count – and allegedly was 36-12.
During a career that spanned from 1890 to 1908, Young pitched for the Cleveland Spiders,
St. Louis Perfectos, Boston Americans, Cleveland Naps and Boston Rustlers. This is the only set
of facts that seem plausible – that not once, but twice, Cleveland gave up on Cy Young himself.
Anyway, my research shows that Young often was credited with two victories on the same day – and
they weren’t even playing doubleheaders! Uh, 511? Balderdash.

•  Lou Gehrig’s streak of playing 2,130 consecutive games: OK, let’s debunk the first myth –
that Gehrig replaced a slumping Wally Pipp for the Yankees on June 2, 1925. In actuality, Gehrig
arrived to the ballpark two hours early and hid Pipp’s glove, cleats and jockstrap, forcing
manager Miller Huggins to insert the 21-year-old into the lineup.
Then we’re told “The Iron Horse” did not miss a game between 1925 and 1939. We’re supposed to
believe he played through countless injuries? They didn’t even have pain relievers back then –
sure, you could get aspirin via mail order out of Peking, but it took 90 days to ship on a slow
boat from China.
Plus, my Uncle Nathan was at a Yankees-Indians game at Municipal Stadium in 1932 and Gehrig
wasn’t even there – he took a “personal day” because his mother had cooked strudel.

•  Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game: No TV. No radio. No fans. You know how, like, 150,000
people claim to have been at the Polo Grounds for Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” in 1951? Well, nobody claims to have witnessed Wilt’s feat.
It was March 2, 1962, and the Philadelphia Warriors beat the New York Knicks 169-147. According
to the box score, Wilt made 36-of-63 field goal attempts and 28-of-32 free throw attempts. What,
he went to bed as Warren Beatty and woke up as Rick Barry?
The game supposedly was held in Hershey, Pa., which, to this day, does not have a
regulation-size basketball court anywhere within city limits. Not to mention that Wilt was
playing the Knicks, which, even back then, had no front office and no defense.

•  Bob Beamon’s 29-foot 21/2-inch long jump: Sure, it was on TV, but it’s like Neil Armstrong’s
moon walk, which we now know was some Hollywood-generated sham.
The jump occurred during the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City and here are the stunning
numbers: He broke the world record by nearly two feet, and Beamon himself never reached 27 feet
again. It is a statistical improbability that anyone can exceed his average performance that
much on a given day; it would be like Keanu Reeves walking onto a movie set and turning into
Russell Crowe.
Do your own at-home test: Go outside and see how far you can long jump. Maybe 8 feet. And this
joker went 29 feet? Please. I’m guessing they simply measured it wrong.

•  David slays Goliath: Fable has it that Goliath, in full armor, met with David, wearing an
oxford and khakis. David struck Goliath’s head with a stone from a sling, then cut off his head
and took it back to Jerusalem to sell at a weekend swap meet.
Great, great story, the stuff of legends, except David not only didn’t own a slingshot, his
parents wouldn’t let him go beyond their driveway unaccompanied.
By the way, Goliath, unofficially, was 9 feet tall – he dated Gheorghe Muresan’s
great-great-great-great-great-great-great aunt – and David was 5-61/2 in Birkenstocks.

Ask The Slouch

Q. My local bowling establishment has a pitcher of Pabst on special for $6.59. I’m a little
short – I could afford, say, $5.34. Any idea where I could acquire the extra $1.25 to enjoy some
refreshing PBR with my teammates? (Chuck Moody; Pittsburgh)
A. “Barkeep – a pitcher of PBR for my Steel City friends!”

Q. When football, baseball and basketball players miss the playoffs, they go golfing. What do
golfers do when they miss the cut? (Roberto Kirchhoff; Mayfield Heights, Ohio)
A. Card room!

Q. How did John Daly’s pants clear British customs? (Philip Booth; Houston)
A. He used a fifth of Jack Daniel’s as a decoy.

Q. Were your first two wives interviewed by Jim Gray outside the courthouse after their
victories over you? (Jack Leibovitch; Towson, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslo…
and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!”


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