July 23, 2009: There is little doubt that Manny Ramirez has been welcomed back to the fold with open arms following his 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's performance-enhancement drug policy. On July 20, Ramirez moved past Mickey Mantle for 15th place on the all-time career home run list with No. 537. The two-run shot in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 7-5 win over the Cincinnati Reds was accompanied by chants of "Manny! Manny!" from the hometown crowd.
On July 22, the Dodgers' home game against the Reds included a giveaway of Ramirez bobbleheads. Although the promotion was put in place prior to his suspension, the club had 56,000 reasons not to cancel it. Not only is the game sold out, according to the team, but those ticket sales "pushed the club over the three-million mark in tickets sold for the 2009 season." Ramirez was not in the starting line-up, having been on the hand by a pitch in the game on July 21. But his pinch-hit grand slam home run in the sixth inning, which true to Hollywood form landed in the leftfield section known as "Mannywood", led the Dodgers to a 6-2 victory.
"It's crazy," Ramirez told reporters after the game. "It was one of the best moments of my career. I'm just glad it happened in [Los Angeles]."
This is not a fluke: On July 17, the San Bernardino (Calif.) Sixty-Sixers, the Class 'A' minor league affiliate of the Dodgers, where Ramirez played a handful of games just prior to rejoining the Dodgers this month, also had a Manny bobblehead giveaway, using the same item Los Angeles will hand out on July 22. According to the San Bernardino Sun, fans started to line up three hours before the gates opened at 6:05 PM, with the first 2,000 fans receiving a bobblehead. According to the Sun, 6,634 fans were at the game, the third-largest figure this season behind a game on the Fourth of July and the second of the three games Ramirez played for the Sixty-Sixers.
This actually might be a case of déjà vu for Ramirez as there were at least two bobblehead versions of him created while he was with his former team, the Boston Red Sox.
During his suspension, which began in early May, he received more than 1.5 million votes for the All-Star team (but was not on the roster). In his first post-suspension home stand at Dodger Stadium, beginning July 16, the Los Angeles Dodgers reinstated "Mannywood," a section in the left field bleachers that offers tickets and T-shirts, and initially came with a marketing campaign prior to Ramirez' suspension. Will there be more Manny love to come. Yes, if team executives have their way.
"He has paid the penalty and it is now up to us to welcome him back to the team," Dodgers' CEO Jamie McCourt told the press upon Ramirez' return last week. And Dodgers president Dennis Mannion said the team's decision to reinstate "Mannywood" was "directly based on our fans' interest."