Manny Ramirez finally joined an elusive and exclusive group, and in the process cemented his place in baseball history. Somewhat disappointingly, Manny's grand moment didn't occur in historic Fenway Park, but the beautiful Camden Yards served as a fitting stand-in since it has become a sort of Fenway South.
Manny became just the third player to hit his 500th home run as a member of the Red Sox, joining Jimmie Foxx and Ted Williams, both in the Hall of Fame. Ramírez will undoubtedly join them one day -- on the first ballot. Williams, however, is the only Sox player to hit all 500 of his homers (521 to be exact) in a Sox uniform.
Manny's record blast, which travelled an estimated at 410 feet to the opposite field, was further evidence of his raw power and tremendous hitting ability. What made the shot all the more amazing is that it came off a pitcher -- former teammate Chad Bradford -- who doesn't yield many long balls. The sidewinder had surrendered only three home runs in the previous three seasons.
But the pressure leading up to the momentous occasion seemed to have gotten to Manny. After hitting No. 496 on April 19, he had only three homers in 34 games leading up to the historic shot.
The achievement is historic for a number of reasons; #24 is only he 24th player to achieve the feat. But beyond that, Ramirez joined an even smaller group. He is only the seventh player in baseball history with 500 homers, 1,500 RBIs, 1,000 walks, 475 doubles and a .300 batting average. The others are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, Frank Thomas and Ted Williams.
The milestone homer came in his 7,263rd at-bat (eighth fastest all-time), on the day after his 36th birthday. That made Manny the 12th youngest player to accomplish the feat.
Ramirez says he intends to hit 600 homers before he's through. Don't bet against him. He's remained relatively injury free throughout his stellar career, and even though he appears to have slowed from the prodigious home run pace he kept prior to last season, he could easily play four more years, until he's forty.
If he hits 20 more dingers this season, he would need to knock just 26 homers in each of the next three seasons to reach 600. That seems entirely possible, perhaps even likely.
Manny has clearly established himself as more than just a prolific power-hitter; he is simply one of the game's greatest hitters -- period. His .312 career average is testament to that. In fact, only three members of the 500-homer club (Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, and Jimmie Foxx) have a higher career average.
It has truly been a pleasure and a privilege to watch Manny being Manny, wearing out one pitcher after another over these past 7 1/2 seasons with Boston. He's provided all of us with so many thrills and an equal number of laughs. We can only hope that a couple more productive seasons are yet to be played by him, and that #600 will also come in Red Sox uniform.
Perhaps in around 2011.
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.